When you think of mindfulness, you may think of a full mind. Perhaps it reminds you of someone highly intelligent such as an engineer, neuroscientist, astrophysicist, or the “You May Be Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” friend. These are indeed people with full minds, but they are not necessarily mindful individuals. In general, someone who is mindful is someone we think of who is present, who notices, who remembers. And, mindfulness may improve attention.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness may be more about the ability to bring your mind to the present moment than it is an indicator of IQ or intelligence. In fact, mindful people, those who can be present in the here and now, may be some of the happiest people. Distractions can, after all, be stressful, not to mention a social handicap at times.
But how do we get there? How do we teach mindfulness? And how do we help those with sensory processing disorder, Autism, Alzheimer’s, behavioral challenges, and neurological differences to be mindful? Maybe the answer lies in our own abilities to be mindful and less in the need we have of others. I’m not suggesting we blame ourselves when others are distracted, but perhaps attention starts with our own intention. To be present. Activities like active listening, reading a book to someone, listening to music together, or working together teach mindfulness.
There are tools that can help us pay attention, but we must first have the intention to pay attention. That means that we may need to pay attention when we don’t want to, when the topic is boring, or the person is annoying. Yes, that annoying person in your life needs your mindfulness and attention. And my guess is that the practice of attending to that which is not so interesting, or the person who is not so interesting may benefit us more than them. Learning to pay attention honestly starts when we are little babies. Eye contact, quiet one-on-one time, and listening to your child or loved one without agenda can actually teach attention skills.
Mindfulness Can Improve Overall Well-Being
Being mindful may not only improve our attention and social abilities, but just might improve our overall well-being. It can decrease our stress and anxiety levels, and create a place of calm. As we are aware of our surroundings and those around us, putting our own agenda aside, we can honestly find a place that is more peaceful and calm inside our own minds.
Mindfulness takes daily practice. It can be achieved through quiet prayer, meditation, or a walk in the woods. Exercise and movement may improve mindfulness as well. You can also achieve mindfulness through sensory tools and a unique sensory environment. These are tools that can jump start the less attentive mind to bring it to the center.
A Few Great Tools
For those who may have trouble getting into the mindful habit, setting up a multisensory room or space can make an impact on the ability to focus, attend, and be mindful. Some of our favorite attention grabbing tools are:
Remember, mindfulness is not necessarily innate for everyone. It may be something that can be practised and improved over time. Take time each day to practice mindfulness in a safe, secure environment, and it may open up a whole new world for you leading to better overall well-being.