Trying to understand What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness. Such a straightforward word, but to put it into practice, many people struggle to do so. It is defined as the ability to be fully present, aware of our surroundings, and of what is happening around us, but also not reacting to anything that is going on at that moment.
You can practice mindfulness every day, by just being conscious of everything around you. But you can strengthen this ability to be in the moment by various forms of mindfulness meditation, which can be practised walking or in a seated or standing posture.
The benefits of being mindful include reducing stress, increasing performance and productivity, and gaining awareness of our own and other’s wellbeing. Many of these benefits are similar or shared with the benefits of regular meditation practice. There are so many studies that back up these benefits with lots of evidence and facts.
The Various Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
1. Reduced Stress Levels
Practising mindfulness regularly can mean that you can gain tools to cope with the stress and anxiety of everyday life, and therefore have less negative responses to it. It also leads to a better mood and emotion regulation.
2. Ability to Manage Illness Better
It may not take away your symptoms, but daily mindfulness can help you to make them more bearable and manageable. It is especially beneficial for cancer patients and other terminal illness sufferers, showing enhanced spirituality, helping post-traumatic growth, and reduced stress levels.
It can also help you to recover from long-term illnesses. This is increasingly evident in chronic or severe illness survivors.
3. Can Improve Your Overall Health
Similar to regular meditation practice, daily mindfulness can help you to improve your overall health through healthier changes in your life such as exercise, a healthier diet, and even going to the doctor more often when needed.
It’s also been shown to improve cardiovascular health, as well as reduce blood pressure. It can even help with your mental health, decreasing the occurrence of panic attacks and depressive episodes.
4. Improves Brain Function
There have been studies on college students who practised mindfulness regularly. These individuals showed increased improvements in their grades when they did the practice every day. It also improves concentration levels and helped them managed their time more effectively.
There are so many other benefits for both our mental and physical health when you practice mindfulness regularly. Many companies have started to offer mindfulness classes for their employees, in order to increase worker morale and productivity, as well as decreasing workplace stress.
Here, however, we will detail a simple method of starting a mindfulness practice for yourself today. It’s super simple and will give you so many benefits if you practice it regularly.
A Simple Mindfulness Exercise
Practising mindfulness daily is simple, you don’t need any special equipment or any skills in order to practice it. All you need to do is follow the following steps.
1. Make sure to sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
2. Close your eyes and start to focus on your breath.
3. Observe the present moment.
4. Let any negative thoughts pass by.
5. When you notice a negative thought, acknowledge that it is a negative one, and let it pass.
6. Make sure to return to either the present moment or your breathing if you get distracted.
7. Don’t be harsh on yourself if your mind does wander, this practice takes time.
Practice this daily, and you’ll see that your mind will wander less and you’ll become more appreciative of the present moment. Adding in meditation, yoga and regular exercise will also help to enhance the benefits of mindfulness and aid you in becoming a healthier version of yourself.
Mindfulness and Meditation – what is the difference?
The terms mindfulness and meditation are often connected but are very different.
Both are techniques to calm a churning mind, both can compliment each other, and so both can wrongly be seen as interchangeable.
While mindfulness and meditation do have a close relationship – and frequently interact – there are some key differences.
An umbrella term that covers a variety of techniques and practices, meditation has been present for thousands of years. It tends to be undertaken formally, in a specific manner, often for a specific time, and requires your full focus.
Meditation is a means to clear your mind, to withdraw your senses, and to concentrate your attention on a single point.
By turning your focus inwards, meditation makes you aware of – but detached from – the constant turmoil of the mind.
Over time, regular meditation practice leads to a level of consciousness that’s completely different from your normal waking state – a state of profound and deep peace, of mental clarity and of emotional serenity.
While meditation can ultimately give you mastery over the mind, it is not an act of doing, it’s a realisation of being – a realisation that you simply are.
For those seeking spiritual development, regular meditation is one of the main ways to progress this, and to connect with your higher Self.
But, while meditation has deeply spiritual roots – and its practice forms a part of several world religions – you do not have to hold any religious beliefs or faith to practice or gain benefit from it.
Meditation is for everyone – old and young, the devotedly religious and the stridently atheist.
As this article points out, meditation is ‘innately human’, and maintaining an agnostic or atheist position doesn’t limit its effectiveness at all.
Mindfulness is a means to give complete attention to what’s happening right here and right now. It can be carried out at any time, and applied to all aspects of daily life.
Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment, being aware of your body, your thoughts, your senses, your feelings and your environment – observing and accepting without judgement.
By focussing on the moment and becoming aware of your surroundings, what you are doing and how you are reacting, you can increase your awareness of yourself, your environment – and improve your interactions with the world and those around you
You can apply mindfulness to all sorts of tasks, and practice it throughout your day.
You can carry out mindful movements, mindful eating, mindful walking or simply apply mindfulness techniques to cleaning your home – decluttering your physical space while also decluttering your mental space.
Like meditation, mindfulness can be completely secular and doesn’t have to be associated with Eastern spiritual philosophies and concepts.
Mindfulness is not Meditation
While it can be a tool to help with meditation – and is a central technique within several traditions – mindfulness is not meditation.
Mindfulness can help make the physical and mental benefits gained from meditation easier to achieve and so can be an initial step for those seeking a deeper transformative experience.
Mindfulness can also be nurtured and improved during formal meditation, while its practice can enhance meditation, making it easier to maintain focus.
Just to confuse things a little, ‘mindfulness meditation’ is a type of meditation. This will be discussed in a later article.
Some benefits of Mindfulness
As looking after the mind is also healing for the body, both mindfulness and meditation can have many positive and similar effects.
It can rebuild brain tissue, limit the onset of Alzheimer’s, dementia and ageing, reduce pain and improve immune function.
Studies have also shown that it can have a physical effect on patients recovering from breast cancer.
It can even make you kinder!
As it encourages clarity of thought mindfulness can also lower levels of depression, reduce insomnia, anxiety and stress – and increase levels of empathy and compassion.
It is important to note that while mindfulness and meditation can be very effective tools for self-caring, they are not a ‘cure-all’.
Meditation should not be the only means of coping with serious mental illness. If you wish to explore meditation and you’re experiencing poor mental health it’s advisable to discuss this with your doctor or therapist.
So, now we have discussed and defined these concepts, our next article will look at some of the types and techniques of meditation.