What is Mindfulness & Should I Practice It?
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is formally defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, or 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. Sounds a bit complicated, but it doesn't have to be, and that's why it has now hit mainstream America. Its popularity is due in part to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who took the practice originally from Buddhist meditation, and founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979.
Many people are confused about what mindfulness involves and how to practice it, as well as how it differs from meditation. This is understandable since they overlap in a practice called mindfulness meditation, which is one of the most popular types of meditation.
Meditation is a formal practice, a time that you set aside to do something for yourself. It is the practice of focusing the mind to reach an ultimate state of consciousness and concentration.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practiced both formally or informally and is an awareness, or paying attention that allows you to be present in the moment. It is both a general awareness of the world, and a meditation practice. It requires total acceptance of yourself, and the current situation you are in, without being judgmental or overwhelmed by your thoughts, feelings or what is going on around you. You are observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance without classifying them as good or bad.
As with meditation, there are many physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness. Within a few weeks of practice, studies have shown mindfulness to improve the body's immune system, reduce stress, increase attention skills and even increase gray matter in the brain helping learning and memory.
There are many simple ways to start practicing mindfulness in your everyday life. During stressful or intense emotional times, try stopping to recognize your thoughts and emotions, and realize they are not lasting and don't have to define you. Or tune into your body's physical sensations such as breathing or how something feels on your skin to calm you. Or simply tune into any given moment and notice the sights, sounds, and smells that you normally ignore, allowing for higher worldly awareness and a moment for your thoughts, without being judgmental to yourself.
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