Mindfulness is a state of mental awareness, of being fully present in the moment without thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness is focusing on the task at hand while being conscious of your surroundings, what you see, hear, or smell. It is being attuned to what you are doing, your purpose, your goal.
The ability to be more mindful is innate, meaning you have all the power to improve your mindfulness. It doesn’t require any major changes in your life. Mindfulness simply needs to be cultivated and practiced in order to receive its benefits. It’s a universal quality that increases awareness and care into every aspect of our lives.
Mindfulness requires calmly acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgement. All too often, we forget to experience the moment we are in. Our minds are too busy thinking about what we need to do next or how we messed up the last time we did this or that. We become lost in our own thoughts and neglect to be in the present with those around us.
Benefits of Mindfulness
When our thoughts and feelings are focused on what we are currently experiencing instead of rehashing the past or worrying about the future, we begin to gain insight into our own emotions. Mindfulness increases your ability to concentrate and pay attention. Becoming more self aware with mindfulness will lead to improvements in your interpersonal relationships.
Mindfulness is beneficial to everyone of all ages and is especially helpful for people dealing with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Studies have shown the practice of mindfulness increases activity in areas of the brain associated with positive emotions. Areas responsible for regulating emotions have been found to be larger in people who practice meditation and mindfulness.
Mindfulness has the ability to:
- Improve working memory through increased concentration and focus of the present task or situation.
- Heighten metacognitive awareness helping you to separate your thoughts and feelings from your identity.
- A moment of anger doesn’t mean your an angry person.
- Our emotions are an expression of our feelings and should not define who we are as a person.
- Awareness of how you feel and being able to accept those feelings will help reduce levels of anxiety and stress.
- Reduce emotional reactivity when exposed to emotionally charged stimulus. We are able to stay on task and not let distractions sway our focus.
- Improve performance of concentration, selective attention, and other visual attention processes.
- Managing pain can be accomplished to an extent through the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Mind over matter can be a powerful tool when used correctly.
Rooted in Buddhism
There are three concepts with regard to the mind and mindfulness that come from the Buddhist way of life: knowing the mind, training the mind, and freeing the mind.
- Knowing the Mind
Buddhism teaches that we create our own suffering through the thoughts and desires we possess. Mindfulness is designed to help you get in touch with who you are, what motivates you, how you feel emotionally, and how we react to people and situations. When you know who you are and what you want in life, you are more able to find your way towards reaching those aspirations and dreams.
- Training the Mind
When we know ourselves, we can begin to treat ourself better by meeting our own needs. We begin to have compassion for ourselves and are able to express positive self talk, self love, and forgiveness of our mistakes.
- Freeing the Mind
Mindfulness requires us to let go of the negative thoughts and feelings of anger we are harboring inside our heart and mind. We must rid ourselves of judgmental thinking and other non-beneficial practices. Freeing our mind brings clarity and insight to show us a greater appreciation of the positive experiences in our life.
Where Mindfulness is Needed
- Evidence supports the benefits of mindfulness with regard to reducing feelings of distress and anxiety and improving student behavior.
- A program is now available, designed for students to help them cultivate mindfulness and deal with:
- Test anxiety
- Improve study skills
- Enhance school performance
- Build resilience
The results of this program have shown improved well being among students and increases in the ability to concentrate and learn new things.
Criminal Justice System
Interventions taking place in prisons around the Australia are finding that the practice of mindfulness by prisoners made significant impacts on reducing hostility among inmates, increased levels of self-esteem, and vast improvements in mood disturbances.
Google has popularised the use of mindfulness in the workplace among global companies. Performance indicators have shown mindfulness in the workplace increases productivity, reduces work stress, and a greater sense of satisfaction with one’s job. As more people begin to learn of the benefits from practicing mindfulness, we will begin to see it spread throughout businesses large and small, creating a global peacefulness of coexistence.
Tools for Cultivating Mindfulness
Like everything in life, we only get better at something through practice. The same applies to mindfulness. We are all able to become more mindful of our lives and those around us. We simply need to take the time to focus and live life fully engaged in the moment.
Meditation teaches you how to clear your mind and focus on the here and now. Guided meditations can be a great source of learning how to become more mindful in a safe and relaxing environment. Once you are able to experience a deeper mindfulness in a relaxed state, you will begin to be able to use mindfulness throughout all the chaos and stresses of everyday life.
❏ Breathing exercises
Proper breathing technique is important for the mind and body. Learning how to use your diaphragm to breathe will help with your concentration, and has a number of health benefits that affect your overall wellness. Practicing deep breathing exercises will clear your mind of negative thoughts and will purify and detoxify your lungs and bloodstream.
The practice of yoga helps you to focus on your body, its movements, and its ability to hold position. Taking time to become more in tune with your physical self will provide a greater sense of what your body needs. When we are able to take better care of ourselves through mindfulness, we are better equipped to cope with day to day stressors.