What Is Mindfulness?
At its most basic, mindfulness is living in the moment. Your mind and body are focused on the exact moment you’re in. For example, this means focusing 100% on reading this article about mindfulness.
When you’re fully in the moment, you’re not distracted by interior and exterior forces. While reading this post, you’re not thinking about summer vacation plans or what you’ll have for dinner or the laundry you need to fold. Nope, you’re completely focused on the words on the screen and on learning about mindfulness.
Admittedly, it’s very challenging to give complete attention and focus to one task. This is a symptom of our always going and completely connected lifestyle. The practice of doing one thing and focusing on that one thing is getting lost for so many of us.
This has created a distracted, forgetful, stressed, and overly worried mindset. We miss out on the good in life because we’re so often thinking about the what if’s and the tomorrows. It’s time to change this and bring some level of mindfulness back to your life.
Not only will you enjoy and appreciate your life more, but your stress levels will reduce and you’ll be doing your immune system a real favor. Now, keep giving this article your full attention and read on to learn more about what mindfulness is, why it’s so good for you, and how you can be mindful.
What is Mindfulness?
To be mindful, you must be in the moment, but there is more to mindfulness than this simple definition. In fact, there are three common and prevailing definitions of mindfulness that can be applied to any aspect of your life.
Mindfulness means to take nothing for granted. This approach to mindfulness makes it easier to appreciate every aspect of your life. You’re happy with and accept the way your life is and you know that you’re fortunate to have the life you do. This approach to mindfulness can help you notice and enjoy every moment, including the little things.
Mindfulness is a focus on the here and now, and returning to the present. This is tied to being in the moment. This however, is very challenging, so to make things easier, we accept that it’s actually very hard to free the mind of all thought and emotion. So with this approach to mindfulness, you want to be focused on what you’re doing but allow yourself some wiggle room so long as you make a commitment to return to the present moment. Yes, you’ll get distracted but you can control how and when you regain focus.
- Mindfulness requires the self-regulation of attention and an attitude of openness, curiosity, and acceptance. This is a more all-encompassing definition of mindfulness that can provide you with a broad framework for how you live and think. This definition is very much about our human ability to control our thoughts, emotions, and attention. The better you can do this, the more focused, open, accepting, and mindful you’ll be of your wants and needs and those of others.
The key with mindfulness is to define it and think about it in a way that makes sense for who you are. There is no set-in-stone definition of mindfulness.
Your goal is to find the definition that works for you today and to be open to changing your perception of mindfulness as your life demands it.
Why Mindfulness Is Good For You
Imagine how good you would feel if you stopped worrying, stressing, and feeling anxious. This is exactly what mindfulness can do for you. Not only does your mental health improve but your physical health benefits as well.
We’ve all heard about the mind-body connection and how having an open, positive, and joyful approach to life can improve your health. Well, this is exactly what mindfulness does for you and why it is so good for you.
Decreased stress. As you know, the more stressed you are, the bigger the strain on your immune system health. There are entire mindfulness programs and approaches devoted to reducing stress levels. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has been proven to be a key factor in eliminating bad stress.
Improved relaxation. It can be very hard to relax when your brain is jumping from task-to-task. When you’re trying to fall asleep or to just chill out for a few moments, it can be impossible to relax with an overactive brain. Mindfulness allows you to let go of these conflicting thoughts and simple be in the present moment.
Better ability to deal with illness. The benefits of mindfulness for people suffering with chronic pain and terminal illness is overwhelmingly positive. While mindfulness cannot remove the symptoms or disease, it can make it easier to manage them. The eCALM trialfor cancer patients discovered that mindfulness can help alleviate the stressful reactions that occur with symptoms and treatment.
- Improved overall health. When you’re connected and feeling in control, you’re more likely to integrate health positive habits into your life. For example, taking a walk to clear your mind or taking the time to prepare a healthful meal or to give up smoking.
By integrating mindfulness into your day-to-day, you’re able to take steps forward in making a difference in how you feel, think, sleep, and react. This all culminates in many intangible benefits such as being open to change, a willingness to accept a challenge, the ability to forgive, the strength to stand up for yourself, etc.
How To Be Mindful
Just as there are multiple definitions of mindfulness, there are also many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life and to be mindful. There is no right or wrong approach, choose the one that fits for you.
Walk. Yes, put on your shoes, flip-flops, hiking boots, or go out in your bare feet and walk. Walk alone for as long as you want and where you want. Walking is a great way to let your mind relax, open up, and to be free.
Be in nature. Take a walk in nature, go for a bike ride, bring a blanket and sit in a park – just get out and be surrounded by green. Nature has been proven to have a calming effect and actually allows us to focus on being simply in nature.
Reframe your daily tasks. By being aware of the daily tasks in your day, you’re more in-tune and connected with what you’re doing. While driving, let yourself listen to the radio rather than have it be background noise to the soundtrack in your brain.
Meditate. A lot of people are afraid of meditation. Meditation can be whatever you need it to be. Taking a few deep breathes when you start your day. Sitting out in the back yard with your eyes closed repeating a saying or mantra. Dedicating time every day to sitting with your eyes closed and thinking about nothing. There are lots of great apps and online programs that make it easier to practice meditation.
Create. Sign up for that pottery class, painting workshop, or photography session. When you’re creating something, your brain becomes completely immersed in what you’re learning and doing. One of our team members swears by pottery as one of the best ways to free her mind and simply focus on the lump of clay for 2.5 hours.
- Do onething. Yes, this means that when you’re reading a book, you’re not thinking about the weekend or when you’re watching a movie you’re not checking your email. When you’re working – you’re working. When you’re relaxing – you’re relaxing. When you’re with friends – you’re talking, listening, and engaging.
This is just an example of how you can be mindful. You have to find the ways that makes sense for you. Maybe it’s starting the day with a stretching routine or having a bedtime routine that allows you to be completely quiet and calm or by taking breaks at work to go stand out in the sun with your eyes closed.