Mindfulness is an important part of our happiness journey. Not only does it help us to focus on what’s going on around us, but through exercise it can encourage us to listen to our body. Other than meditation, when was the last time you focused on how your body feels? Usually this only happens when we’re in pain and the pain is drawing attention to what our body is saying to us. But it’s equally important to listen to our body when we’re feeling pain-free and complete.
Exercise presents a great opportunity to practice being mindful and embrace the moment. Many of us have an exercise regime in order to keep up our positive physical health, many of us don’t exercise at all because we have a belief that exercise isn’t for us. So in either case the act of exercising never becomes synonymous with really being in the present moment but rather a means to an end or something we want to avoid.
However, mindfulness helps us connect with our bodies in the present moment when we exercise because exercise creates physical changes we can pay attention to. Sports like running and swimming are good for focusing on the breath because you’re more aware of it than usual. Your movements are more exaggerated which gives another important focal point for the mind.
Even when we’re struggling with exercise and want the session to be over we can realise that experiencing these thoughts and these hard moments and knowing it will pass is what mindfulness is all about. It can make you realise that you should make the most of this present moment which is the basis of meditation – to observe your thoughts rather than get overwhelmed by them and focus on the breath or the sensations and movements of the body.
Of course, by doing this you are actually training your mind to cope better with every day life and anything that it throws at you allowing you to be more open-minded about what you can achieve. Being more mindful during exercise, for example, allows you to think more about how far to push your body and know when to ease up helping you experience exercise in a more fun and rewarding way.
I do a lot of swimming and I find swimming length after length gives me a wonderful opportunity to focus on the movements of my whole body and the feel of the water flowing past me. I also find that by doing this, I naturally start feeling gratitude that my body is capable of making these movements over and over again and that I’m able to easily enjoy each moment.
So don’t always think of exercise as a means to an end. All forms of exercise will keep a healthy, happy mind and body but take it a step further and really embrace the present moment whether you’re really feeling the flow or finding it a struggle. Focus your mind on the breath and the movements to really take full advantage of your exercise experience 🙂