To properly understand mindfulness, we need to explain its very opposite: mindlessness. Have you ever approached a room seeking something and upon getting past the door, you were immediately clueless about why you were there in the first place? Ha-ha. Apparently, everyone has experienced it. What’s that called? Mindlessness. And it is so called because you were not aware of your experience or the events around you.
If mindlessness was about losing awareness, mindfulness is about regaining it. That’s simple. See this definition by the American Psychological Association: “…a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.”
That comprehensive explanation already deals with many myths surrounding the subject of mindfulness today. While it is more often than not associated with different forms of meditation and new age spirituality techniques, it doesn’t have to be so. Mindfulness is simply the state of being aware, being aware of yourself and what’s going on around you.
Mindfulness is not just another fashionable cliché being thrown around by perhaps mischievous people. Its benefits have been backed up by years of research.
In a world of constant distraction, our minds find it far easier than ever to wander away from the present and get lost several worlds away. The question then becomes, ‘how do we regain that awareness and control of our minds?’ And the answer apparently is mindfulness. It helps people improve their mental focus and concentration.
Distraction is a huge hindrance to getting work done on time. Our brain constantly processes other thoughts that threaten current work. That’s why we check emails every few minutes while working. And it contributes to procrastination too. That moment when we realize our mind has gone astray and bringing it back to the present is being mindful. The more we realize this and practice it, the more we improve our focus and productivity.
People who practice mindfulness, especially through meditation, have often reported that it’s relaxing and reduces stress. Mindful people understand their own emotions and that of other people better. Hence, they are able to react to stressful events better and handle issues more calmly. Mindfulness research has shown how it can lower the incidence of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
There is a regimented mindfulness plan called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) devoted entirely to relieving people of their stress. Even now, more employers are introducing mindfulness programs in order to improve the physical well-being of their employees. The Journal of the American Medical Association published research on the effects of MBSR on a group of 342 people between age 20 and 70. It was carried by the Group Health Cooperative and the University of Washington, both in Seattle. At the end of the study, the participants reported more positive effects of the technique than those who were in traditional care.
Improve Physical Health
Mindfulness is about maintaining calmness, even in the face of a tough situation. This calmness of the mind reduces the risk of having heart disease and high blood pressure. It also helps to manage pain and suffering. And people who practice mindfulness have reported having more quality sleep.
The Harvard Medical School carried out a study that proves this. Participants were grouped into two, with those who practiced mindfulness separated from those who didn’t. At the end of the study, the former were found to have stronger protection from health issues such as high blood pressure, arthritis, various forms of pain, infertility, inflammation, and even cancer.
Improve Mental Health
Apart from physical health issues, patients with unstable mental health are usually recommended for mindfulness exercises. One of such methods is the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), given how a lot of stress can impact the functions of the brain negatively.
Another is the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) that is usually recommended to people with serious cases of depression. It can help them recover and live lives better. Psychologists and Psychiatrists alike get their patients through mindfulness techniques with proven records of recovery.
Here, I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, but any kind of relationship. Mindfulness makes you more aware of your own emotions. Understanding how our own feelings work and the fact that everyone is different would help us understand other people better. This builds compassion and subsequently intimacy, strengthening the bond of our relationships.
This happens because mindfulness has a positive effect on the anterior cingulate cortex in the brain which helps to regulate our emotions-based reactions. The more mindful we are, the better we are able to relate to the feelings of others. Therefore, our reaction would be from the standpoint of an understanding partner. Specifically, listening to music while practicing mindfulness can help improve relationships.
So, if you want to begin practicing mindfulness, how does one go about it?
- Meditation is the most common (but not the only) form of mindfulness today. It involves just becoming aware of your thoughts and surroundings and letting different feelings come and go as you observe. Joining a meditation group gives you even more motivation to exercise it.
- There are different types of clinically-recommended mindfulness therapy sessions, especially for people battling stress and anxiety disorder. The most popular are: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (MCBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), etc.
- A technological approach to practicing mindfulness is using a meditation and mindfulness app. While there are so many these days, I’ve found one that really works. Humm.ly combines mindfulness and meditation techniques with a professional music therapy to help you have the best experience. Since using it, I’ve become more mindful and have enjoyed a better quality of life overall. You should try it out too.
ConclusionThe writing is all over the wall: mindfulness is important because it improves well-being. This isn’t just some fad; it’s a proven scientific fact. Begin practicing mindfulness today to enjoy a better life. Stress is a major feature in the workplace and company heads need to look out for employee wellness. Encouraging mindfulness in the workplace is a way this can be achieved.