What is Mindfulness?
Have you ever had a conversation with someone, nodded enthusiastically and wandered off into your own internal world, wondering what they just said? Congratulations, that’s the opposite of being mindful. So, now you know what it isn’t, what is mindfulness?
NOVEMBER 26, 2018
There has been a surge of interest in mindfulness over the past 10 years. Perhaps you’ve read about it? Or you know someone who practices it? But you’re still left wondering what is mindfulness? We’ve got the answers.
What mindfulness isn’t
Mind – less – ness is when you lose focus, you’re somewhere else. Classic examples are:
– Not remembering the journey you’ve just made.
– Asking for directions, thanking that kind passer by and having no recollection of what they said.
– Drifting off in a meeting Eating a bar of chocolate and wondering where it went.
– Jumping from one thought to another and another and wondering how you arrived at your present thought.
– Rushing to the end of this article, because, well, you’re too busy to read it really
It’s the way we’re wired
There’s nothing wrong with you if you find yourself zoning out. It’s the way our brains are wired. When we have nothing to do, we finish a task or simply find ourselves idling, an area of the brain known as the default mode network is activated. That’s when we start to wander off.
That’s autopilot and it means that we aren’t focused on the present moment. We’re usually busy doing, doing, doing and not being in the present moment.
We’re usually thinking about what to do next, or what happened yesterday or ruminating on something, anywhere rather than in the now. The more our mind wanders, the more we are at risk of unhappiness, anxiety and depression. So, what is mindfulness? It’s the opposite of what we find ourselves normally doing.
What is Mindfulness?
If you hadn’t already guessed, mindfulness is the opposite of that. Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening as it happens.
It’s bringing your full awareness to whatever you are doing. It is being in the present moment, aware of your thoughts, feelings and what is happening in the world around you without judging it.
Perhaps the most famous definition of mindfulness is from Jon Kabat Zinn
“Paying attention; On purpose, deliberately, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Let’s break that down.
We are deliberately focusing our attention. This means that we choose to move out of autopilot. We are aware of what we are paying attention to, there’s no drifting.
When we’re mindful we are in the present moment. We are in the here and now, accepting things just as they are without wanting to change them or wishing they were different.
We’re not judging what we notice when we’re mindful. Mindful exercises will encourage you to accept things, just as they are.
It’s a myth that mindfulness is about emptying your mind or zoning out. Mindfulness is noticing what’s here, right now without trying to push it away or get rid of it. When we’re mindful, we’re actually zoning in.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has multiple benefits and is now practiced in schools, hospitals, workplaces and communities all over the world. Research has demonstrated that when you practice mindfulness regularly it will;
– Help to reduce anxiety and stress
– Increase happiness
– Help you to manage pain
– Improve your relationships (at work and at home)
Mindfulness exercises are called practices. The more you practice mindfulness the more you’ll notice the benefits of being mindful.
Formal mindfulness practice
Formal practice is meditation. This involves starting with an intention, deciding why you are practising e.g. to be less stressed or to become more resilient.
You can meditate sitting, laying down, walking. Typically a meditation involves using your breath as an ‘anchor’ but your anchor could be sound, movement or even, food.
Informal mindfulness practice
Informal practice is whatever you do to build mindfulness into the rest of your life.