What Is Mindfulness?

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Shorter Version

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“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”

~ Sonia Ricotti

What Is Mindfulness? It’s Innate

Mindfulness is something that lies within every person. It’s a mental state that is attained by being present, conscious, and fully aware of your thoughts, feelings, and senses. Because it is innate, it is not something you can invoke or create. But, before you can be mindful, you must first learn how to retrieve it from within yourself.

Yet, even though mindfulness is inborn, it can still be nurtured through meditation techniques that involve walking, sitting, standing, reclining, moving, and reflecting. It brings meditation techniques into your daily life, so you can manage your stress more effectively. And, guess what? Mindfulness is linked to various mental, emotional, and physical health benefits, such as a reduced stress level, improved mood, lower blood pressure, improved focus and concentration, clarity, and deeper insight.

Don’t judge

In fact, researchers have also found that mindfulness improves learning abilities, eases pain, reduces anxiety, and lowers one’s risk of depression and emotional eating. These benefits are the result of an awareness of your thoughts and feelings. During mindfulness exercises, you are allowed to delay judgment and “free” your inborn curiosity. In other words, you are able to approach situations with positivity, peace, and kindness. It is important to note that with mindfulness, you don’t need to change. It acknowledges and celebrates the best of who you are as a person.

Mindfulness is one’s ability to be fully present and aware of where he or she is and what he or she is doing, while not becoming overly upset, angry, or overwhelmed by what is happening to or around him or her.

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Read the longer version

You can learn more about “mindfulness” by reading the following articles: How to Become More Mindful in Your Everyday Life by Very Well Mind, What Is Mindfulness? And How to Be More Mindful by Psychology Today, How to Become a More Mindful Person by Psych Central, and The Pros and Cons of Mindfulness by Thrive Psychotherapy.


Embrace your wandering mind

With mindfulness, it is important that you embrace your wandering mind because it will happen. The truth is it takes a lot of practice to achieve complete mindfulness. So, don’t beat yourself up if you can only be mindful for a few minutes at a time.
Remember, you are human, and staying in the present can be hard sometimes, especially if you have a lot on your mind. So, if your mind starts to wander, practice deep breathing exercises, and then re-center yourself. In other words, try to focus on the present again. Keep trying until you can go a while without your mind wandering.


Just relax

The next way to introduce mindfulness into your life is to relax. Sounds simple, right? Not quite, but it’s vital for true mindfulness to occur. So, how can you relax when you are stressed, tired, distracted, depressed, and/or anxious? By doing deep breathing exercises, going to a spa, spending time with loved ones, doing something you love to do, practicing yoga poses, and/or meditating.
The key to this step is to de-stress and let go. In other words, release the tension you are feeling so you can free your mind. Once you can free your mind, you can become more aware of what is happening around you. Understand, however, that the premise of mindfulness is not relaxation; however, being relaxed can help you become more self-aware and present – key components of mindfulness.
When you are relaxed, you are more conscious and aware of your emotions and bodily sensations. And, as a result, you are more mindful. In other words, relaxing helps you become more present and in-tune with yourself and your surroundings.


Be prepared to notice everything

Once you begin practicing mindfulness, you will start to notice everything. Why? Because, you’ll be more in-tune with your body, emotions, and sensations. The result? A newfound awareness of your surroundings. What does that mean? It means you’ll probably notice things you never noticed before – things like the sound of your heart beating in your chest, while you watch your favorite sitcom, or the sound of your breathing, while you clean the house. The downside? You’ll also notice unpleasant things like how your spouse’s voice tone deepens or rises when he or she becomes angry at you or how your partner is no longer affectionate towards you like he or she used to be. Noticing these things may be painful; however, that is a good thing, because it means you’re making real progress. In other words, you’re becoming more mindful.
So,  when the things you notice become upsetting for you, practice relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, body scan meditation, self-massage, visualization, rhythmic movement, meditation, and/or yoga/Tai chi. Or, sip on calming herbal teas like peppermint tea, chamomile tea, valerian root tea, or lavender tea. Doing these things will help you relax, so you can return to a state of mindfulness.
When you become more aware of the more distressing things in your life, stay open to the experience. In other words, allow yourself to feel what is happening. Approach this new mindfulness with patience, tolerance, kindness, and empathy and do not allow challenges and stressors to bring you down.


Stay in the present

Being mindful means staying in the present. More specifically, it means not avoiding things that are painful, upsetting, confusing, challenging, difficult, and/or depressing. When you confront negative situations head-on, you keep yourself open to all of the possibilities or everything that could or may happen. You don’t allow circumstances to rattle you. You stay in the present.
As a result, the probability that you will heal and grow rises – despite any distress or confusion. When you are mindful, pain and distress cannot touch you. In other words, it doesn’t affect you because you have reached a place of awareness, “stillness,” and tranquility. You are essentially in a Zen state, which means that outside forces are unable to alter how you feel and who you are. You are mindful of the world around you, but you are present and at-peace within yourself.
So, what should you do if you have trouble “staying in the present?” Set a goal and work at achieving it. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? If so, research how to do it – and then get to work! Maybe, you’ve always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboys football player or cheerleader, but people in your past told you’d never make the team – let that go. It is in the past and you are in the present.
Research how to become a team member and go for it. Stay in the present and don’t dwell on what people said or did in the past. Focus on what is happening now in your life or what you want for your life now – and leave the past…in the past.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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