This is what mindfulness refers to in most cases but it has also been appropriated to mean a lot more. If mindfulness means being more aware of your thoughts, then it can also be applied outside of meditation and to the way you go about your day.
In this case, mindfulness simply means being mindful of what you’re focussing on and what you’re thinking at any given point. This is useful because very often you’ll find that your mind isn’t perhaps where it should be.
For example, if you are walking through a beautiful scenic woodland but you are thinking about work, then as far as your body is concerned you may as well be at work. In this case, mindfulness can be used simply to make yourself more aware of where you are and to actually focus on what’s around you. That means feeling the breeze on your skin, looking at the beautiful flowers and smelling the fresh air. When you do all that, you will benefit much more from the experience.
Likewise, you can use mindfulness to direct your attention to all manner of other things. For example your physical sensations. Often we aren’t aware of just how we’re sitting, how we’re standing or how we’re feeling.
Take a moment right now to reflect on this. How comfortable are you at the moment? Does any part of your body hurt? If you’re sitting down, then where is most pressure on you? Can you feel your clothes against your body? A watch maybe? How warm are you? Are you leaning more to one side?
This kind of mindfulness can be useful if you want to try and fix your posture but also if you want to improve your abilities in sports or just move more efficiently.
Being more mindful of the way you speak can meanwhile help you to speak more eloquently, to stop using derogatory words, to stop swearing, or to change the whole way that people perceive you. For example, if you want to sound more intelligent, then you can simply try using bigger words or speaking a little more slowly.
You can also use mindfulness to be happier in every day life. Simply try to stop letting negative emotions affect you by identifying them as temporary and destructive. You can simply ‘notice’ that you’re getting angry and acknowledge that your thoughts will be tainted by that. With practice, this can make you a much calmer and much happier person.
But what do you find when you try and do this?
In all likelihood, you’ll find that you forget. This is just the same way that you forget to pick up bread when your other half asks you to. And it’s just the same way you forget to pick up your keys on the way out of the house.
The point is: most of the time we have no control over what we’re focussed on or what we’re paying attention to. And as such, we find ourselves forgetting things, getting into bad habits or stressing when we should be enjoying ourselves.
Practicing mindfulness both as a form of meditation and during the day can therefore help you to improve your ability to control your thoughts and thereby to decide how you want to improve yourself and what you want to focus on.