What is 'Mindfulness'?
Updated: Feb 13, 2019
The idea of ‘mindfulness’ has been quietly gaining popularity over the past decade. Stemming from Eastern disciplines, mindfulness is essentially recognising that the mind tends to wander and is prone to becoming distracted, a lot. Compulsively in fact. Not only do our minds do this, but they also have a fixation for the negative and enjoy looking for faults and problems to resolve.
This is a great skill to have when we’re in a position to act on what’s causing us anxiety (i.e. we’ve identified a problem and can go about fixing it) but all too often we end up ruminating on what we feel are our many ‘problems’, which are either in the past or some way in the future. Often, they are not directly in the present! When we’re constantly in ‘worry mode’ our mental and emotional wellbeing are at risk, as we begin to feel increasingly more and more overwhelmed and exhausted.
Mindfulness is the art of bringing our thoughts back into the present moment, through consciously engaging with what we’re doing, thinking and feeling in real time. This can have a wonderfully calming effect. If you do have a few worries on your mind, it can quickly stop you from focusing on the ‘worst case scenario’, or can just simply bring enjoyment by noticing things happening around you that you may have missed through being ‘lost in thought’. It’s also a great way for us to stay connected to how we’re feeling and what’s having an effect on us – either positive, negative or neutral.
Through consciously paying attention to our emotional ecosystems, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves at an emotional level, helping us to become less reactive and more aware. This can be very helpful when dealing with stress or difficult and challenging situations!
Luckily for us, mindfulness is easy and it’s an innate ability we all have! However, for most people the difficulty lies in remembering to do it, especially at critical moments when we’d really benefit from taking a mindful moment. We can only think one thought at a time, so by switching focus to the present – which can be as simple as bringing our awareness back to our breathing, we can disconnect from what’s caused us anxiety or stress and begin to feel calm again. This has proven benefits, from reducing stress, enhancing performance, improving focus and increasing feelings of wellbeing!
So, what do we need to know about mindfulness?
1. We can all do it. Practicing mindfulness develops our humanitarian qualities and can be practiced by everyone of all faiths and backgrounds. It’s easy to learn, and with the right guidance can become a great tool that enhances the quality of our lives.
2. It’s a lifestyle. Mindfulness brings awareness and conscious thought into everything we do and who we are. It helps us reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety. A little mindfulness goes a long way!
3. It’s supported by science. The benefits of mindfulness have gone under the microscope and have got the thumbs up. Science and observation show the positive effects regular mindful practices will have on our health, well-being, careers, and relationships.
Overall, mindfulness is a low-cost solution to helping us navigate through an increasingly complex and changing landscape. It supports us by building our mental and emotional resistance to stress and anxiety, whilst enhancing our ability to problem-solve by becoming more curious and innovative in our response to challenges.