I believe that the mind is powerful! For thousands of years, people have been practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness comes from Buddhist traditions and was adapted by Kabat-Zinn in his program called mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). Science is now also proving that mindfulness can be beneficial for us.
How's so? In today's society, our lives can be so stressful. Some of us may have 9-5 jobs, stress from relationships, low finances, etc and as a result, some people may live their lives on auto-pilot.
Are you always constantly worried about the past and future? You know maybe those mistakes in the past that you can't seem to get over. Or whether if you will earn enough money to live a better life? Our thoughts are filled with the past and future way too much to fully experience the happiness of the present moment.
If that's how you live your life then living mindfully is a daily practice that you can benefit from. Want to know more then keep on reading.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be defined as being fully present in the now without judgment.
Mindfulness is when we're fully present in the now with non-judgmental acceptance.
When we're present in the now/in the moment we're going to become very aware of experiences like where we are, what we're doing, how we feel, what we feel, our environment, our thoughts and our feelings.
Consider, for example, Ann in a particular moment in her life. One where she's eating a piece of pineapple! Ann is practicing mindfulness and so she is aware of:
- what she's doing and how it tastes - she's eating pineapple and its sweet
- where she's at - she's sitting on a stool in her kitchen
- how she feels - she's not going to judge herself for what she feels
Whiles Ann is sitting there eating she's going to have thoughts and feelings in her head but because she is practicing mindfulness she is not going to judge them. Most of us always want to feel the right way think the right things. You know like when we feel something we judge ourselves and determine whether if it's the right or wrong way to think or feel in the moment.
- She is not going to go over the past in her head or imagine what the future will be like and so on.
Benefits of mindfulness
Two fundamental things that you get from mindfulness is firstly awareness and secondly acceptance. These two things are what gives us all the benefits. Generally, mindfulness helps improve your health mentally and physically.
- reduces depression, anxiety, and stress
Exposure to stress will produce negative outcomes. It can lead to mental illnesses and decreased well being. Mental illness such as OCD, depression, and anxiety all can stem from worrying. Considered for example OCD. A sufferer of OCD will spend their days constantly worried.
Chronic stress can cause digestive problems (nausea and diarrhea), suppression of your immune system (lead to frequent colds and flu), autoimmune diseases, weight gain, loss of sleep and mental health problems like anxiety and depression and other health problems.
Mindfulness could also help lower blood pressure, improve sleep and ease gastrointestinal problems.
Ferszt et al. (2015) studied the impact of a mindfulness based program on perceived stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep of incarcerated women. Their study showed that the women in one group had lowered scores on stress, anxiety, and depression after the intervention compared to before the intervention (1).
Mindfulness could help us cope with other psychological distress (psychological distress are unpleasant emotions that affect us such as anxiety, worry, anger, and fear) besides the ones that were mentioned above and help with other mental illnesses that weren't mentioned above also.
With mindfulness you accept these distress, deal with them and move on.
- could help people with heart disease by lowering their heart rate
Jounge et al. (2015) studied the effectiveness of mindfulness training in patients with heart disease. Their study showed a significantly lower heart rate and a borderline significant improved 6-minute walk test in the mindfulness group (2).
- helps us cope and deal with emotional pain
In our lives we go through all kinds of pain, it's a part of life. We can get emotional pain from a divorce, the death of someone we love, the loss of a job, rejection and the list can go on. With mindfulness, we can end our suffering and all we have to do is focus on the present moment. When you focus on the now/present moment you'll not think of the emotional pain of the past years that you're suffering from as often as you do. When we feel emotional pain we often want to escape the pain or drown it out but with mindfulness, we deal with them in the moment and accept them.
- helps us to fully enjoy our happiness
When we experience happiness instead of enjoying it we can worry that it won't last and even try not to lose it. This worry will not let us enjoy our happiness.
- may help with weight gain in obese individuals
Jennifer et al. (2011) studied the effects of a mindfulness intervention on abdominal adiposity among obese women. The participants of the study body mass index (BMI) was between 25-40 and they weighed less than 300 lbs. They also didn't have diabetes nor didn't use hormonal supplements. Postmenopausal women were excluded and also women with a history of a bilateral oophorectomy, total hysterectomy, and polycystic ovary syndrome etc. Their study showed that within the period of their study that the mindfulness practices by themselves may not reliably induce decrease caloric intake in these women but may prevent periodic increases in overeating and eventual weight gain (3).
- helps you to create a greater intimacy with your loved ones
With mindfulness, you focus on the present moment with your loved one instead of other things at the same time which will result in greater intimacy.
How to Practice mindfulness
When can I practice mindfulness? Every single moment of our lives is an opportunity to practice mindfulness. You don't need a special place or setting or cushion to practice mindfulness. So you don't have to wait for a special time or moment.
There are many ways in which one can practice mindfulness and below are some.
First, how do I practice mindfulness? Remember that you should concentrate on the now (including thoughts and feelings, sensations and not just actions) without judgment.
- Mindfulness meditation
When it comes to mindfulness mediation remember body, breath, and thoughts. Sit in a quiet area of your choice and focus on your breathing. Some people will use a word (mantra) that they repeat. When thoughts enter your head don't judge and keep breathing or the use your word. You can also contact a meditation instructor for help.
- Practice mindfulness during everyday activities
For example like eat mindfully. You can practice mindful eating by creating a beautiful eating area or eat slow or eat one mindful meal a day.
- Connect with your senses
Sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste.
- Practice mindfulness with your emotions
Accept your emotions and let them go.
- Do yoga that involves mindfulness
- Practice mindfulness in your choices of living
You can achieve this by giving attention to something you do each day.
These are our choices of living, you can live:
1. In the moment
2. In the past
3. In the future
People live in a combination of those moments and some moments more than some. When we live in the moment, we have control of our lives. When we live in the past and future we have no control. This can lead to worry and anxiety. The best advice is to learn from your past and prepare for your future. Prepare for your future by planning for it but don't let your fears and so on affect your now/present.
It's essential to remember that our minds will wonder. It may wonder and so there are going to be thoughts like memories (good/bad), fantasies, future plans and so on. All you have to do is simply bring it back to what you are doing/bring it back to the present.
In conclusion when you're mindful you're not distracted and you don't wish for things to be different. You choose the matters you focus on. Additionally, you are aware that you can't change the past so you learn from the lessons of the past but don't focus on those events.
1. Ferszt GG, Miller RJ, Hickey JE, Maull F, Crisp K. The Impact of a Mindfulness Based Program on Perceived Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Sleep of Incarcerated Women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2015; 12(9):11594-11607.
2.Younge JO, Wery MF, Gotink RA, Utens EMWJ, Michels M, Rizopoulos D, et al. (2015) Web-Based Mindfulness Intervention in Heart Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE 10(12):e0143843. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0143843
3. Jennifer Daubenmier, Jean Kristeller, Frederick M. Hecht, et al., “Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study,” Journal of Obesity, vol. 2011, Article ID 651936, 13 pages, 2011. doi:10.1155/2011/651936