Mindfulness is a popular term these days. However, not all of us know what it means. We are here to help you better understand this concept and share some fascinating facts about it.
Mindfulness is the ability of a human being to be living in the present moment. When a person becomes mindful, they realize that they are not their thoughts. They start observing their thoughts and accepting them as they are without judgment. When somebody practices mindfulness, their thoughts tune into what they are sensing in the present moment rather than ruminating about their past or worrying about their future.
It is worth noting that mindfulness is a quality that all of us already have. And if an individual wants to be mindful, they just have to learn how to find a “key” to it.
Awakening to the present takes consistent effort and practice, but the results are well worth it.
If you want to find out how mindful you already are, we highly recommend you take this reliable Mindfulness Questionnaire.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and some Native American traditions. It entered the Western mainstream in the second half of the 20th century. Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg founded the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in 1975. It played a crucial role in mindfulness coming to the Western world.
The work of American professor Jon Kabat-Zinn also played a big role in popularizing mindfulness in the USA and the West in general. Kabat-Zinn learned about mindfulness from several Buddhist teachers, one of which was Thich Nhat Hanh, the “father” of mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn went on to study it more deeply. That gave him a solid foundation of knowledge about mindfulness. Later, he integrated it with Western science. What Jon Kabat-Zinn did was separate mindfulness principles from the cultural and religious components associated with Buddhism and, essentially, adapted it for the Western mindset. One of his more important creations was the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, aimed at reducing stress, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.
Hundreds of scientific papers on mindfulness have been published since then. Mindfulness practices have been getting more and more popular around the world. So many individuals worldwide have been learning how to work, exercise, eat, spend, and parent mindfully.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
Cultivating mindfulness is very beneficial for humans. Several studies have shown that practicing this nonjudgmental awareness of the present can bring an individual that engages in it a variety of psychological, physical, and social benefits. Here are some of them:
- Mindfulness is great or the body: it boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, and lowers blood pressure;
- It is exceptional for the mind: it increases positive emotions while reducing stress and helping fight depression;
- It makes a person more resilient: some research suggests it helps war veterans facing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),women who suffered abuse, and police officers;
- It is amazing for business: mindfulness training helps leaders become more confident and improve their creativity which allows them to satisfy their customers better;
- It is helpful for parents and parents-to-be: several studies have revealed that mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety in expectant mothers; parents who engage in mindfulness practices report better relationships with their children;
- It helps fight obesity: practicing mindful eating encourages healthier eating patterns, like, for example, savoring the food rather than just devouring it, thus helps people lose weight;
- It fosters empathy, compassion, and altruism: according to numerous studies, mindfulness training makes people more empathetic and more likely to help someone in need;
- Last but not least, mindfulness improves relationships: mindful people are less defensive and argue with their romantic partners much less than people who do not practice mindfulness.
Obviously, a relationship with few or no arguments is only possible if both partners are mindful. But sometimes it happens that one partner awakens to mindfulness and the other partner is not on the same page. In some cases, such relationships end. In other cases, the less mindful partner starts putting effort to get in tune with their significant other.
Types of Mindfulness Practices
Mindfulness can be cultivated through several proven techniques. Here are some of them:
- Mindful breathing: it is one of the core mindfulness practices. It is a very basic yet potent exercise that can help you focus your attention on your breathing process and thus reduce your body’s stress response by staying in the present. All you have to do is focus on your breathing rhythm and the way you feel during each inhale and exhale.
- Meditation: it can take many shapes and forms, but all mindfulness meditations have the same goal - to stay openhearted in everything we do. Bear in mind that mindfulness meditation is not about letting your thoughts wander or emptying your mind, as some people wrongly think. This practice, instead, is about paying close attention to the present - especially our thoughts and emotions. Even if you meditate just a few minutes a day, it can make a big difference. You can combine meditation practice with other activities, such as yoga or pilates.
- Visualization: such mindfulness exercises can help you expand your ability to relax by focusing your mind on comforting and serene images. Visualization techniques may include imagining your thoughts as clouds or thinking about turquoise sea water, the sound of gentle waves, and the weight of your body sinking into a beach chair. If you want to protect your energy, consider the practice of visualizing a white or pink light shield above your head.
- Body scan: it is one of the most common mindfulness exercises. It is great for beginners who are unsure how to start their mindfulness practices. When somebody practices the body scan, they imagine each part of their body to connect to their physical self. The purpose of this exercise is to tune in to the body and gain a deeper understanding of the causes of one’s unwanted feelings.
- Sensory activities: these can be eating, listening to music, smelling something your favorite flowers, doing the dishes, or even paying attention to the way your clothes feel on your skin. Yes, all these activities can be performed mindfully! Such exercises can be particularly helpful in connecting you to the present moment.
- Journaling: it is one of the easiest and most popular ways to implement mindfulness. It is cheap and can be practiced anywhere and by anyone. There is no wrong or right time to start mindful journaling. Once you realize you are willing to write down your thoughts and emotions regularly, you can get started. Journaling is extraordinary because it allows you to express whatever emotions you experience - contentment, exhilaration, sadness, anxiety, impatience, or even boredom. It can help you dig deeper inside yourself and get to know yourself better by revealing your most private thoughts, fears, moods, emotions, and feelings. You do not have to share your journal with anyone. But if you decide you do want to share some of it with trusted friends, relatives, or your romantic partner, you can show them parts of your journal.
4 Facts About Mindfulness Everyone Should Know
- It is incorrect to perceive mindfulness as something exotic or hazy: it is absolutely natural for every human because it’s how we are and have always been. “Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it”, said Sharon Salzberg, a central figure in the field of mindfulness.
- Mindfulness has a great potential to become a phenomenon that will change society for the better: this practice cultivates universal human qualities and values; everyone can make good use of it, and it’s easy to learn.
- Mindfulness is evidence-based: scientific research and experience have both shown its benefits for people’s physical and mental health, work, friendships, romantic relationships, overall happiness and well-being.
- It sparks creativity, innovation, and positivity. As we deal with the modern world’s increasing uncertainty, mindfulness can help each one of us give effective and inexpensive responses to seemingly adamant issues.