“Mindfulness.” It’s one of those trendy buzzwords that get tossed around today. Tons of “gurus” are consistently – and increasingly – preaching the benefits of mindfulness. So much so that it’s tempting to brush off the word (much less the concept) and ignore it completely.
But what is mindfulness really? And is the idea of “practicing mindfulness” just another fad or is there more to it?
In recent years, the bigger buzzword was “intention”—and it’s close cousin, “attention.” There has been no shortage of self-help teachers and practitioners talking about the power of intention and benefits of attention. As in – set your intention wisely because what you give your attention to, is what manifests itself in your life.
“Mindfulness” is really a similar concept. On mindful.org in their article, “What Is Mindfulness?” they say it is having the mind totally focused on what is happening, what you are doing, and the space you are moving through. Drilling down even further, they say, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Similar to attention, mindfulness means being fully involved in what is happening in your life, instead of let life happen to you.
Furthermore, another big key to mindfulness is that this attention is done with judgment. It just sees and accepts “what is” for “what it is.” You may have guessed (or known) that it has its roots in Buddhism. However, it was adapted for a more mainstream use – in part based on work by a researched named Jon Kabot-Zinn while creating a stress-reduction program – by the Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.
For some, specifically those that practice mindfulness techniques like meditation and yoga, mindfulness is easier to practice and achieve. For others – especially those who seem themselves as natural “multi-taskers” or “jugglers”- it’s a bit more challenging. Yet, still totally do-able.
Why should you practice mindfulness?
- It’s good for your body! One study even showed that after 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness, the immune system improved.
- It’s good for your mind! Mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety. Who couldn’t use that?!
- It actually changes our brains – permanently – for the better. According to Berkeley: “It increases density of gray matter in brain regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.”
- If helps us focus – allowing us to be more productive – by enabling us to better tune out distractions.
- It improves memory.
- Research seems to say that practicing mindfulness makes us more compassionate, empathetic, and altruistic. (Makes you wonder if mindfulness might be a huge key to rehabilitation of criminals or in therapy of those with certain psychological disorders where empathy is missing?)
- It’s practice with kids makes them better behaved and shows promise as a treatment for ADD and ADHD.
- Mindful eating may help to prevent – or even “treat” – obesity.
Here are a few other important things to know about mindfulness:
- It’s actually a very simple concept – it’s basically just paying attention, with some “non-judgmental consideration” tossed in…
- You don’t need a lot of training or special information and knowledge to practice mindfulness, you just need to make the decision to do it.
- There is nothing about “yourself” that you must change to practice mindfulness. You don’t need to take on some new identity or accept any new belief system to practice mindfulness.
- The benefits of mindfulness are so vast, it is addictive—making it easier to keep practicing mindfulness over time instead of a habit that is hard to maintain
Here’s a closing question for you to consider…
How mindful were you when reading this article? If you can’t assure yourself that you were 100% mindful, perhaps go back and read it through one more time. See how much you missed the first time around. There’s no better way to prove the value of mindfulness to yourself than giving it a try!