You've probably heard the buzzword before. "Just try to be more mindful," we're told. It's supposedly great for our mental health. But no one ever tells us the details. What does mindfulness truly mean? Why is it so great for our mental health? And how do we achieve mindfulness?
That's why we're here today. I'm going to be deep-diving into what you need to know about mindfulness!
What is Mindfulness?
Oxford Languages defines mindfulness as: "A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique."
Mindful defines mindfulness similarly: "It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through." Mindful continues, "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."
Mindful is quick to point out that although mindfulness sounds easy, it's really not. Our brains are so easily distracted from the present moment — whether that is because we are focused on the past or the future, or because of a technological distraction such as TV or social media, our brains are often not in the now.
It's easy to let our brains be distracted. It's hard to practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means making a conscious choice to put in the effort and be disciplined. It's like homework for your mind, because if your mind were on autopilot, it would give in to all the distractions.
However, although most of us are not mindful on a daily basis, mindfulness is an innate ability we all already have. "It's not something you have to conjure up," Mindful writes. "You just have to learn how to access it."
Why is Mindfulness Beneficial?
Why even practice mindfulness? What's the point? The American Psychological Association explains how practicing mindfulness fosters mental well-being, calmness, clarity, and concentration.
Mindfulness also increases our ability to regulate our emotions by reducing our stress, depression, anxiety, and negative rumination. Mindfulness also increases our ability to focus, the capacity of our working memory, our cognitive flexibility, and our satisfaction in relationships!
Mindfulness benefits our physical well-being as well! Mindfulness decreases blood pressure, contributing to our overall heart health. Practicing mindfulness also decreases cognitive decline, providing protection from aging and Alzheimer's. It also reduces cell aging, and increases our immune response. It can even protect us from psychological pain!
Now that you know all the benefits of mindfulness, why wouldn't you practice it?
How to Practice Mindfulness
To practice mindfulness, we need to know how to do it!
Mindfulness isn't just meditation, although that's a wonderful way to practice. You can try guided mindfulness meditations, or just meditate on your own! Meditation is pretty easy. You just sit and remain aware of your thoughts!
You can practice mindfulness in other ways besides meditation, too, such as when you're eating. Rather than eating while you watch TV or scroll on your phone, practice mindfulness by really focusing on the smells, taste, and texture of your food. Also, slow down while you eat — this means you need to come to the table to eat before you start starving! Eating mindfully also means eating when you're hungry, and stopping when you're full.
You can also practice mindfulness when you work out! Yoga is a prime example of an exercise that helps you move mindfully. But you can use any type of movement to practice mindfulness. You can do this by paying attention to eat movement your body makes, rather than going on autopilot. Rather than getting lost in your thoughts, try to always pull your attention back to your physical body.
And finally, you can practice mindfulness any time of the day. Whenever you find yourself with your mind racing anxiously, return to the present moment and ground yourself. Grounding yourself helps you get back into the moment by getting in touch with your body.
Ground yourself by focusing on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
Practice Mindfulness to Improve your Well-Being
Practicing mindfulness is free. It is a technique recommended by therapists, and you can easily do it in your own home! Try it out to see if it helps you feel better, like it has helped me! I hope it works well for you!