Mindfulness is probably one of those terms that you have been hearing more often and you may be wondering:
what is mindfulness, exactly? and is it helpful in my everyday life?
Mindfulness, simply, is living in the moment—appreciating the now, instead of rehashing the past and worrying about the future. It is an awareness of our current thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, and environment as they are without judgment of whether they are “right” or “wrong.” Mindfulness involves being gentle with ourselves and recognizing that our thoughts and feelings are fleeting and do not define us, helping us avoid negative thought patterns.
Here are some ways we can practice mindfulness and incorporate it into our daily routines:
Mindful breathing is a common component in many forms of meditation and it involves awareness of the breath as we breathe in and out.
Allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath when it wanders.
Mindful breathing is particularly helpful when feeling intense emotions, such as anxiety or anger.
Body scan is another common practice where you bring attention and focus on a particular part of your body, from your head to your toes.
Try to notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass, while still maintaining your breath.
Finding “micro-moments” of mindfulness throughout the day helps renew our focus and sense of purpose. It involves an awareness of our five senses by consciously noticing what we’re sensing at a particular moment. For instance: we can practice this by listening to the sound of the coffee machine as it prepares our drink, by noticing how hot our cup of tea is in the morning and how its smell invigorates us to be productive throughout the day, or by putting aside our phone when we eat to savor each bite of our meal.
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even inconsistently, can bring about positive changes to our physical health and overall psychological wellbeing.
Mindfulness is good for our body and mind. Practicing mindfulness meditation has been found to boost the immune system’s ability to fight off illness, improve sleep quality, and fight obesity.
Mindfulness also changes the brain by increasing density of gray matter in regions linked to learning and memory.
It also helps us focus by tuning out distractions and improving our attention and decision-making skills.
Mindfulness is helpful in various aspects of our psychological well-being. It improves mood, increases positive emotions, decreases anxiety, emotional reactivity, and job burnout.
Mindfulness influences how we see ourselves and others, too. Mindfulness develops a stronger sense of self, a healthier body image, more secure self-esteem, and more resilience to negative feedback. While at the same time, mindfulness fosters empathy for our neighbors. Mindfulness can reduce implicit biases about other people, and makes us more likely to help someone in need.