Studies conducted over the last 10 years show how practicing awareness, also called mindfulness, creates positive effects on the brain by building new neural connections among brain cells. Mindfulness helps us rewire the brain, and with each new neural connection, the brain is learning. Over time, mindfulness practice thickens the region of the brain responsible for self-observation, optimism, compassion, possibility thinking, and a sense of well-being. This area is also associated with creativity, an increased sense of curiosity, and the ability to be reflective and observe how our mind works. All this positivity helps us to avoid being dominated by the part of the brain that is associated with fear, depression, anxiety, and pessimism. As a result, our self-awareness, emotional stability, and sense of self-worth increase as our negative judgments of others and ourselves decrease.
Build Your Mindfulness Muscles
By developing a daily practice of awareness we train and master the mind and open ourselves to better relationships and a more fulfilling life. Many of the studies that demonstrate the positive effects of mindfulness focus on a daily practice of seated meditation. However, growing data shows that the same results can be achieved through other practices, such practicing mindfulness during our daily activities. The idea is to be as immersed as possible in each activity, developing mindfulness muscles with each attempt.
Connecting With Others Without Losing Ourselves
I invite you to begin a simple awareness practice called Sensing, Looking, and Listening. It is a body-scan exercise were you:
- Begin with eyes closed, then sense the left foot, left calf, left thigh, and progressively sense the entire body.
- Then allow your focus to settle on the arms and legs.
- Next, while still being mindful of our arms and legs, expand your awareness to listening.
- Then open the eyes and let your awareness see the world around you.
The idea is to maintain your sense of yourself—your own presence—while sensing, looking, and listening to the environment and to others. This can be difficult; we are easily distracted, and it takes an act of will to resist being spellbound by the sounds and images around us. Many of us are aware of being so captivated by someone that we “lose” ourselves. When we are lost in another, we are not really connected. When we lose connection with our own self, we can’t be connected in a powerful and meaningful way with another.
Developing a Powerful Presence
Practicing this 360-degree awareness will result in a powerful personal presence, where you are grounded in your own sense of self, in the room with others, in relationship to them, and in relationship to the world.