Mindfulness is about paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment without judgement. It is being fully aware, open and curious to whatever is happening when it is happening, both within and outside ourselves. Simply put, it is about living fully in the here and now.
Through mindfulness we tune in to our full experience using all of our senses which cultivates engagement and connection with ourselves, others and our environments. So often we get caught up in thinking about the way we want things to be, the way things should be and what’s wrong with the way things are. We also get easily lost in fantasies about our lives which include regrets of the past and worry about the future. Each time we are caught up and lost in our thoughts and emotions, we are not truly here in the present which is our life. Often we get caught up in unnecessary suffering instead.
Through mindfulness, we can become more aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensations. This awareness allows us the ability to disentangle ourselves from unhelpful automatic reactions in both thinking and behaving. By slowing down and becoming more aware of our inner experience, we can respond more skillfully and in a manner that reflects our true intentions, desires and values.
Mindfulness also invites acceptance of all our emotions and experiences: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Human nature is wanting to avoid unpleasant and painful experiences and grasp for pleasant ones, which compels us to engage in ways of thinking and reacting that can actually increase our suffering and distress. The avoidance of unpleasant experiences and striving for pleasant ones often creates an adversarial and rejecting relationship with ourselves and our environment. Mindfulness alternatively encourages taking a compassionate stance towards ourselves and our experiences whatever they may be.
You do not have to ascribe to any religious or spiritual belief to practice mindfulness, as it is a natural part of being human. It has been cultivated and practiced both formally and informally for thousands of years in various traditions around the world.
Mindfulness has been well researched with scientific evidence mounting for its positive affect on physical and psychological well-being and its ability to produce positive lasting change in the brain.
Some benefits of mindfulness include:
- Improved sleep and increased energy
- Reduced anxiety and feelings of stress
- Reduced symptoms of depression and relapse
- Increased concentration, focus and memory
- Increased resiliency and coping with stressful events including chronic pain
- Decreased feelings of exhaustion, irritability and anger
- Increased feelings of self-worth and compassion towards self and others
- Improved physical health, immunity and feelings of overall well-being
- Feeling more connected with what really matters in your life