When trying to define exactly what is mindfulness, it’s important to understand that when mindfulness has been practiced and is accomplished, it’s actually a new way to live life as opposed to being an activity or an exercise that is participated in at certain points during the day. Mindfulness is the ability to focus all of your attention in the moment and accept whatever is happening around you for what it is with no judgment, good or bad. People are often searching for the key to happiness and mindfulness has the potential to be a component to that end.
If you learn all there is to understand about mindfulness and embrace it fully, it will allow your stress levels to decrease and reduce anxiety, bring to a minimum the number of moments that you are feeling a sense of being overwhelmed, and allow you to feel gratitude for every moment while it is happening. It is quite possibly the chance that we have to be able to cope with the sheer craziness of all of the instances of chaos that the world presents to us on any given day.
What Is Mindfulness?
There are all different interpretations as to what is mindfulness and each person ‘practices’ the approach in their own way. Scientists and psychologists have studied mindfulness with their own views and interpretations. There are three professional definitions for mindfulness that's stood out among others.
- Mindfulness is not taking anything for granted. This is a rather simplistic take on a subject that seems so much more complex. Mindfulness is being aware of what is exactly happening, understanding that, openly accepting that, and not judging that. This does imply that. Everything we have is what we will have and nothing will change. It just doesn’t express the whole entire concept of what mindfulness is. There is no mention of gratitude which is a part of mindfulness.
- Mindfulness will take you back to the present moment. There is a misperception with mindfulness that it is defined as remaining within the present moment. People who meditate tend to be brought to a sense of frustration as their mind finds it difficult to come to the present moment making them believe they are incapable of mindfulness. In reality there is no one who can remain in the present moment at all times. That would be virtually impossible to make the mind stay where it is at all times with all that there is for it to have to process each moment of every day. It is possible to bring it back to the present moment at any time along with our body’s senses and breathing patterns that are in that moment.
- Mindfulness is the self’s use of openness, curiosity, and acceptance in the regulation of your attention. This was offered up by a group of researchers. With this definition, the true meaning is more obvious than the other two. You have the ability to take command of your attention and to control your focus to bring it to the here and now allowing for you to be open to what is happening, have an innate curiosity around the things going on around you, and ultimately accept. This more closely represents the answer as to what does mindfulness mean.
What Does Being Mindful Mean?
Being mindful means that you’re mind is consciously focused within the current moment with no actual kind of attachment to the moment and without placing any type of judgment on what is happening within that moment. This makes us more aware of our internal and external functions making us see things as they are in real time.
The 7 Attitudes of Mindfulness
There are 7 attitudes of mindfulness that play a critical role in the ‘practice’. Attitudes most certainly involve an intention. Intension are what set the stage for all that mindfulness can make possible for you.
- Non-judging. You want to be the impartial eyewitness to your own experiences. You want to watch with no type of judgment which will allow you to see precisely what it is on your mind with no type of fixing what you see or analyzing or fading off into your thoughts.
- Non-striving. There is not to be anything achieved with mindfulness other than you just are. There is not going to be any type of gain in happiness or any type of emotion involved. It’s just you being you.
- Acceptance. You will need to have the ability to see everything as it is. Have the capability to accept things as the moments are presented to you means that you will be able to live life in a much more complete way.
- Letting Go. Things are to be allowed as they are by you letting go of any types of desires, ideas, thoughts, things, views, events, experiences, hopes, good or bad. Things are as they are with no kind of attachment nor any rejection, no resistance, no struggle. Things just are. With this attitude, it is said that watching breath going in and out is a good place to begin.
- Beginner’s Mind. Free yourself of any expectations regarding past experience. This requires removing any kind of attachment to the past and allow yourself to just be. You should be able to watch as the time goes by with no agenda accept to remain in the present moment.
- Patience. This takes remembering that everything has to happen within its own time. Disallow any anxiety or desires for certain outcomes to take over the quality of the time.
- Trust. There should develop a sense of trust within yourself and a confidence.
Formal and Informal Mindfulness and What They Mean
Some people view mindfulness with images of sitting in silent meditation for hours. Formal sitting meditation can be one variation of practicing mindfulness, there are a number of ways both formal and informal that people can use in order to incorporate mindfulness so that they can reap the many health benefits that it is credited with.
Formal mindfulness practice takes an intentional commitment from you every day where you allow a certain period of time which is up to you. It can be anywhere from a minute up to an hour but it needs to be specific time set aside for this purpose. This is inviting those who participate to sit with an awareness focused on one thing in one moment which you could choose to be concentration on the entire body or the stillness within the room or your breathing or a certain sensation that you experience. This formal version of mindfulness transforms the brain in a way in which it allows the mindfulness to start to become a part of everyday life. Examples of formal mindfulness can include things such as:
- Meditation either sitting or standing. This is where you are in an upright position with the heart strong, open, and relaxed just allowing yourself to be in the moment and feel the stillness noticing the thoughts, sensations, and emotions with no attachment.
- Breath Awareness. This is when you focus on naturally breathing and are aware of the breaths going in and out, bringing the attention to the idea of receiving and then releasing as in taking in joy and letting go of anger.
- Yoga. Breath, flow, poses, mindfulness, and movement integrated with the mind, body, and spirit. Yoga oftentimes involves a focus on the letting go of any type of resistance and holding on to where our mind is with acceptance.
The formal practices of mindfulness can also be interpreted into informal practice. When you practice in a much more informal way, you are noticing your experience many more times throughout the day as opposed to one set period of time during the day. There are many more moments of thoughtful practice. Informal practices can include things such as:
- Dishwashing. This is an instance where you can concentrate on the water and the movement to let your thoughts focus and pay more attention to every piece that you come to, slowing down the movements to allow for the thought process.
- Nature. Take time to really notice the sounds when you’re out among nature like the frogs or the birds or even the leaves rustling as you walk. You can listen to the traffic in the city or the people hurrying by and the conversations that they’re having.
- Showering. Feel the water’s warmth and the sensation that it gives to your skin. Listen to the sounds that it makes on the tile and the spray as it comes out. Notice what types of feelings and thoughts your experiencing as you go through the entire experience.
Formal and informal mindfulness are two very distinctly different ways to experience mindfulness and will bring those who practice unique results. Those who practice one set time period every day in the formal scenario don’t allow themselves the benefit of participating throughout the entire day, every day. They’ve made it a scheduled process. The informal practitioners have made it more of a ‘free will’ type of experience where they are able to have a connection at any point during the day that they choose to.
Mindfulness and Mental Health
There is a growing need for techniques to assist people in coping with instances of anxiety and depression as statistics show that nearly one out of five Americans are suffering with anxiety and almost 8% of the country’s population suffers from depression. Mental health and well being can react to particular lifestyle changes and one of those practices is mindfulness. This simple practice has the ability to alter our standard reactions and patterns of emotions to allow for new perspectives. Mindfulness offers two elements that work in conjunction in order to bring the necessary relief.
- Aware. If you are aware, you notice things as they begin to happen such as the anxiety beginning, emotions rising, negative perceptions, and self talk. You have the ability to be much more flexible with the way in which you respond when you see these things happening from the start.
Attitude. Being open and accepting with your attitude will give you the ability to accept whatever takes place as opposed to trying to push the feelings away or make it into a massive emotional trauma for yourself. Accepting your emotions keeps you from struggling with the conflicts internally so you are better able to deal with the situation using positive resources such as the STOP method:
Take a breath
Observe your body, the thoughts, and the feelings
Process the possibilities and then proceed
Mindfulness brings emotional regulation allowing you to stop what is about to happen before it has the chance to start, prevents thoughts and feelings from interfering.
How does mindfulness help mental health? It would probably be better to explain what is mindfulness therapy. Mindfulness interventions are becoming widely accepted throughout the country as a method to address the symptoms associated with many mental health challenges or various emotional concerns.
Mindful-based therapies are generally delivered via mindful meditation in which the person is directed to concentrate on the present moment. If they drift from that moment, they are encouraged to discuss where they’ve gone and what is happening before they come back to the current moment. Therapists are better able to help those with treatment to comprehend and deal with the emotions and sensations their cognitive mind is presenting.
These methods are especially helpful with individual experiencing overwhelming emotions as it allows them to maintain a semblance of control. Once mindfulness has been practiced and acknowledged, patients are encouraged to use the method within their daily lives with them later discussing in session their experiences with the mindfulness outside of the clinical setting. The combination of in-clinic use and at-home use with observation and examination can become a catalyst for the patient’s thought and behavior modification process.
Mindfulness allows patients to separate themselves from their negative emotions, their thoughts, and their bodily sensations oftentimes before they come to a ‘boiling point’. Those who can achieve this point of awareness find it easier then to incorporate other strategies of therapy in order to address potentially harmful cognitions so that they can prevent any type of negative effects. Mindfulness therapy allows the doctors and the therapists a safe and effective form of treatment which allows the patient a dynamic coping skill where there had not been one previously.
How Can You Practice Mindfulness?
It’s clear that mindfulness is extremely good for the mind, body, and spirit. The mind has the capability of being trained and sharpened allowing for us to break the spell of negative thoughts limit our stress and anxiety, and restore focus and concentration. Some of us aren’t the type to sit and concentrate in a meditative-type scenario, but there are many other ways in which you can make mindfulness a part of your daily life.
Every minute of the day presents an opportunity for you to be mindful. It’s not necessary for you to sit on a meditation cushion or go to a center for meditation. Your entire life is full of moments giving you the opportunity to participate in mindfulness. You should know that you have the ability to be mindful 24/7, it’s just a matter of actually doing so. Here are different ways you can put mindfulness to work for you.
- Walking in mindfulness. You don’t have to sit for meditation, you can do walking meditation. It is actually a common practice within a variety of different meditation retreats. Whenever you decide to take a walk for whatever reason, rather than just empty thinking, bring attention to the present moment and notice everything around you including your feet walking on the floor, people speaking, the heaviness of your body. Pay attention to anything that your senses are sending back to you as feedback.
- Eating Mindfully. There are too many times that we all sit down to eat with nothing at all on our minds. Instead when you sit to eat, just eat with nothing around to distract your thoughts being mindful to exactly what you’re having, the taste and the smell. Don’t forget the gratitude for what it is that you’re consuming.
- Speak/listen mindfully. You’ll be much better able to understand other people’s point of view if you listen to them mindfully and you’ll actually hear yourself in return and be more thoughtful with your dialog. This allows for a considerate as opposed to a rushed conversation where the other person will feel heard and respected.
There are so many different ways to practice mindfulness, most of which are a form of meditation which are used to bring us a state of being alert to our current moment, a sense of focus and clarity. This is accomplished by deliberately concentrating on our thoughts, emotions, and our sensations with no attachment and no rejection, no good and no bad. This is us just allowing ourselves to be us. This is mindfulness.