You hear the word mindfulness very often these days. It sounds like something familiar, but you cannot actually put your hands on it. In clear simple words, what does mindfulness mean, and how does it benefit you in real life?
Mindfulness purely means living in the present with full awareness. When mindful, you are paying attention to the current moment. You are completely focused on the here-and-now.
Be Mindful in Your Life
Mindfulness, in its most basic form, can be practiced by concentrating on the sensations experienced in a specific moment. The mind is not allowed to wander away, or perceptions and judgments to disrupt the moment, or the emotions to call the shots.
Here are three pieces of information that make mindfulness feel like a total cakewalk:
- Mindfulness is a skill that everyone already has, it just needs to be practiced regularly and properly.
- It can be practiced anytime and anywhere.
- It is easily done with any activity; during working, eating, or doing busy work and chores.
If you haven't tried mindfulness yet, try this incredibly simple exercise: Focus on your breathing right now for two minutes before you move forward with this article.
Focus on the flow of your breathing without interfering with its pace or trying to control it. Focus on the inhaling, the rise and fall of your belly, and the exhaling... in and out. Observe what is happening in the body (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or sensations). Then notice how much more focused you are for the rest of the reading.
Now, let's get down to the nitty–gritty of the benefits of mindfulness in real life.
1. Controlling Attention
By far, this is the greatest benefit of mindfulness.
On any given day, people experience long, mixed streams of thoughts. Some of them get swept under the rug, while others become daily obsessions. That makes it very hard to focus on any situation at hand, whether it is a task at work, or a regular conversation with your significant other.
One of the main goals of mindfulness is training the mind to focus better, thus enhancing the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. When you practice mindfulness often enough, you become increasingly attentive to everything you do, rather than letting your mind go astray, or suffering continually from distracting thoughts.
It is a big pay-off to start living life more consciously, instead of on autopilot!
2. Spotting Negative Thought Patterns
If you observe your thoughts, you will notice how easily they skip from one about work or relationships, to another about dreams or grocery shopping. You see mental images, have feelings, and recall memories, all overlapping and interrupting each other constantly.
A key principle in mindfulness is to monitor this mental activity and acknowledge its existence. To consciously observe your thoughts and feelings means you can catch the thought patterns you frequently fall into, and address the negative ones straight away. Furthermore, this new awareness of mental processes can open your eyes to the bad habits you might have been oblivious to.
3. Withholding Judgment
“Allow thoughts to come and go” is an often-repeated statement in meditation classes. The aim beyond these words is to be attentive to thoughts, and accept them for what they are without judgment.
By practicing mindfulness, you train the mind to let thoughts pass through without analyzing or reacting to them. They should not distract your mindful state, or get you caught up in their emotional ramifications.
4. Becoming More Open
Growing up, your brain learns to label everything. Something is either good or bad, right or wrong. And the more you think in certain way, the more you enhance the same synapses in your brain.
Therefore, over time, you develop a rigid mentality that drives you to the same lame choices and poor decisions. Then you wonder why on earth you keep doing those stupid things over and over again!
Being free from this natural tendency to label and sort everything, you experience the present without relying on your perceptions and judgments, and view the current events in life with a fresh new lens that opens you to all new possibilities.
By all means, living mindfully is not a walk in the park, but it can make a world of difference. The more you practice mindfulness, the more you are aware of what’s happening inside and outside yourself, and the better choices and decisions you make every day.
What benefits have you found from practicing mindfulness in your life? Share them with the rest of the community in the comments below!