Mindfulness seems to be everywhere these days...mindful eating, mindful working, and mindful relaxation. But what exactly is mindfulness? How can it help you? And how do you know if you are doing it correctly?
The definition of mindfulness is applying your mind fully to whatever you are doing or whatever is happening to you. This seems like an easy thing to do, after all, doesn’t your mind have to be attentive to accomplish whatever task is at hand?
However, think about how many times you have been driving and wound up at your destination only to not fully recall how you got there as if your body was on autopilot. Alternatively, think about scrolling through social media, or having a conversation with a friend only to be dwelling on what you are going to say next instead of what he/she is actually saying.
All of these are good examples of how our minds tend to veer off track. We are prone to losing sight of what we are currently doing and exposing ourselves to thoughts about the past or future that lead to anxiousness.
Mindful.org states “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”. A concept that is easy to understand but hard to practice.
Some would argue that every human already possesses mindfulness, or the ability to be mindful. However, we don’t often access it or use it. Many find that the key to mindfulness is through practice, specifically with the use of meditation.
Meditation can be practiced in short bursts when you are either standing, sitting, moving, or lying down (though not sleeping). Taking short pauses throughout the day to think, reflect, and be aware of your body and feelings is practicing mindfulness. Meditation is not trying to have a clear mind or thinking about thinking. It is “paying attention to where you are and what is going on” and taking a moment to relax.
The relaxation factor is an important characteristic of mindfulness and meditation. Having a chronic illness, such as hypothyroidism, is stressful in and of itself without having to worry about medications, symptoms, and doctors appointments.
Hypothyroidism has to be managed closely by a physician who can monitor your symptoms, read your blood levels, and make minute changes to your medication. This means ongoing if infrequent, doctors appointments and blood draws.
Hypothyroidism also comes with a host of unpleasant symptoms. From weight gain, fatigue, brittle hair and nails, muscle weakness, constipation, and more. These symptoms can leave you feeling stressed and depressed.
Mindfulness may be able to help with the anxiety and stress caused by having a chronic illness. Mindfulness allows you to manage your stress response and approach the situation more calmly.
If you practice mindfulness enough, it may become commonplace for you to approach things calmly and mindfully. You can take a step back from your thoughts, pause, and evaluate them peacefully instead of immediately reacting. Essentially, you can turn off your fight or flight stress response.
Mindfulness may also help you to become more aware of your thoughts and your body. By practicing meditation and body awareness you may be able to recognize the onset of your symptoms sooner, allowing you to address and treat them earlier. As you become more aware of your thoughts, you can steer them in a more focused and productive path rather than stressing.
Daily mindfulness practice may just bring you the comfort and solace you need to handle your chronic illness.
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