In today’s world, we are constantly under siege by an ever-growing myriad of distractions. Social competition. Media influences. Fast fashion. Fast food. Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention even while external factors relentlessly clog our minds. Our ability to control what external stimuli we face every day is limited. Though, what we can control is our perception of these things.
Practicing mindfulness strengthens the neural circuits in our prefrontal cortex so that we may perceive events in our life more positively.
Why is this necessary?
In order to be fully autonomous and liberated individuals, we need the ability to make informed decisions. Being aware of what our drivers are derived from helps with this.
Through mindfulness practice, we open up the gap between thinking and doing. There is conscious reflection that happens in these moments. The more present we become in the moment before doing, the more we can learn how to forgo instant gratifications, unhelpful compulsions and curb cravings.
For instance, take the decision of whether or not to indulge in an extra slice of cake. Here’s a few quick questions for you: does your body want it or does your mind? Do you seek the item for comfort? Do you feel justified to indulge? Why do you even need to indulge?
Biologically speaking, our bodies do not gain nutrients from sugary treats so in the physiological sense, the craving is not attributed to survival. It is definitely not a want of the body. Rather, it exists as a want of the mind.
So how do we train our minds to not fall for such instinct cravings?
Don’t push away these thoughts or even try to ignore them. Resist and it will persist. Accept and they will perish. Compassion accelerates the process of overcoming temptation. Compassion may take the form of telling yourself “I am facing a choice in this moment. I feel like I want this cake but I know it is not going to satisfy me in a way that is long lasting. My senses may enjoy the moment temporarily, but its effects ultimately won’t promote good health. I accept that I do feel strong cravings for it and that is normal”.
After this course of acceptance, you may find the option to reject the cake becomes much more effortless. In the absence of mindfulness process, one may have simply made the automatic reach for the extra slice. An action, that when conducted regularly, would build up a series of poor habits.
Whether it be cake, cigarettes, drugs, or any other type of addiction outside of substance abuse (gambling, porn, etc.) harmful effects will persist until you take conscious notice.
Take control of your actions by becoming attentive to what drives your behaviour. Take note of what your motivations are. Apply these practices to your every day. Informed decisions are always driven by awareness. Gain awareness through mindfulness practice.