Mindfulness is a state of active awareness – of purposefully paying attention to the present moment. Practicing mindfulness involves observing thoughts, emotional responses, and body sensations through a non-judgmental lens.
We live more fully when we are aware of our current environment and activities. By practicing mindfulness, we are able to clear our minds of distractions that can cause us to lose focus on the present.
The benefits of practicing mindfulness may include:
- Calming the nervous system and reducing stress
- Increased concentration and energy levels
- Increased quality of sleep
- Improved food awareness and satisfaction
- Improved interpersonal relationships
When you first start practicing mindfulness, you may become aware of your attention wandering—worrying about the future or about past experiences. But don’t give up! Cultivating this skill will help you to more fully appreciate the present moment.
Mindfulness is not so much a mindset as a method. Simple techniques like becoming aware of your breath can create space between our thoughts and slow down emotional responses. It allows you to observe a thought for what it is—a thought, and not a positive or negative reality. This space can provide time to defuse anger, stress, and other immediate reactions to a situation.
- Mindfulness helps you discover the difference between thought and experience, and choose the emotional response that best reflects that difference.
Breathing is especially useful as a focus since your breath is always present, and may need some attention at an anxious moment. There is wisdom in the advice to “Take a deep breath.”
- Take a moment – now and as often as you can, to simply note what is happening in your body
- Focus on your breath. Notice the in-breath and out-breath, and simply observe.
- Look around, and allow your eyes to enliven your awareness of the environment wherever you are.
Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D
Founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School
Mindfulness meditation is a more sustained practice, which also involves a focus on the breath and purposefully observing thoughts and feelings.
You can change the way you experience your life. Former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe explains the benefits of mindfulness meditation in this video
Act, Don’t React
What mindfulness invites you to do is to take a small step back, observe a thought, and let it pass. This allows you to remain unattached to the thought emotionally. The informal practice of mindfulness can be applied to your thoughts and emotions immediately as they occur. The process is simple:
- You have thought
- You make a brief intervention—most often returning a focus to breathing—to keep yourself in the present, to avoid having your immediate thoughts and emotions control your reactions.