(Image courtesy of Harvard Health)
Whittier Christian High School

Opinion: The benefits of practicing mindfulness

“I have so many things to do when I get home today…”

“I should finish my work as soon as this Snapchat conversation ends.”

“What if I mess up my test next period?”

“Did I say something wrong to him yesterday?”

Nowadays, our minds are often overwhelmed by these plans and worries for the future or by regrets of the past. But these thoughts that dwell on future or past not only tire our minds but take us away from the present. Although we are physically in one place or a  situation in the moment, our minds are more likely to be far away from it, dwelling in another time, another place, with other people.

One study on distractedness, “A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind” by Harvard Psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilberts, detailed that the average human mind is not present for more than half the day.

This makes us very inefficient in what we do and only leaves us unfulfilled. As we are not fully focusing on the task given, we are more likely to make careless mistakes and be less efficient in our jobs. We are constantly doing something, but we are not making the most of our time. But not only that, being less conscious of the present significantly affects our happiness. The aforementioned Harvard study has also shown that we are the happiest when we are doing what we are thinking, and caring, about.

Mindfulness is bringing attention to what is happening at the moment and being aware of our present experiences. Being mindful, we pause to observe and sense the things that are happening around us, and within ourselves, such as our posture, our sensation for each body parts, and our thoughts and emotions. The key to being mindful lies in sensing these without any judgement. We are not forcing ourselves to correct our posture, forget certain emotions, or stop certain thoughts, but we are simply perceiving them.

Guided meditation is one of the most well known ways to practice mindfulness. In the videos or audios for guided exercise, instructions with a calming voice help us to bring our attention to the moment in a relaxed manner. The guided exercises are great way to introduce ourselves into mindfulness and start practicing it for the first time.

But aside from meditations, mindfulness can be practiced during our daily lives, through our activities and attitudes. One way I personally practice mindfulness is by writing in a journal and making scrapbooks. Writing journals helps me to be fully focused on my present emotions and thoughts and be aware of my day and my surrounding situations. For a moment, it takes me away from my to-do lists and brings me to a place where I am fully engaged in a present moment. Scrapbooking also helps me in a similar sense. By printing out photos with great memories and designing a page with it, I become fully aware of the fun, happy experiences that I had without other stress and worries distracting myself.

Mindfulness can also be practiced in our daily activities. For me, when I am on my way school, when I am walking from classroom to classroom, or when I am talking with my friends, I try to be present in the moment and fully perceive the experience, I try to perceive the warm sunshine and great sceneries with green grass and high palm trees — simply being in awe of life’s beautiful moments. Arising from these presence are the feelings of gratitude and kindness, the two attitudes that mindfulness strongly emphasizes. We become fully aware of the good things we have in our life and be able to connect with others without much distractions.   

Yet, it is hard to practice mindfulness in modern day lives — I cannot count how many times I find myself drift away to worries for the future in one single mindfulness meditation. I get caught up with my to-do lists or regrets of the past multiple times in a single conversation that I have. However, being aware of our drifting away and being able to constantly bring our attention back to our present moment are what make a difference in our lives.