Mindfulness is self-awareness to the present moment in a way that involves acceptance, non-judgment, curiosity, and observation. More specifically, it refers to techniques that allows us to slow down and observe our thoughts and feelings, without getting caught up in them. It often includes paying attention to the breath, or taking deep, calming breaths.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism where it is traditionally associated with the peaceful contemplation of Buddhist monks. It became a secular practice in the 1980s with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
Today, mindfulness training is recognized worldwide as a distinctive method for handling emotions such as relieving pain, anxiety and depression; developing social and emotional skills in students; counseling at-risk people; and treating drug addiction.
Mindfulness training can include the following activities:
- Breathing exercises
- Observing the sensory experience of eating
Mindfulness is practiced by focusing your full attention on whatever is happening in the moment with clarity and acceptance. Many people learn mindfulness through a variety of meditation techniques, but it can also be learned on one’s own through precise, accurate attention to ALL of one’s experiences – physical sensations and perceptions, thoughts, and emotions – as they occur moment-by-moment. Mindful attention is especially important with experiences we find difficult or unpleasant. Mindfulness increases our ability to see what is actually happening, and more importantly, our reactions to what is happening, clearly, and therefore to work more skillfully with the inevitable difficulties of life.
Mindfulness is a lifelong process of betterment. When practicing mindfulness it is important to remember that there are no mindful people; there are people who practice mindfulness and behave mindfully. Consciously practicing mindfulness enhances perception and awareness over time because undivided attention makes mindful moments seem fuller, richer, clearer, more vibrant or piercing, more poignant and alive.
Mindfulness training promotes an awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings, and creates a calmness that increases our ability to observe the details of situations and distance ourselves from our emotions. When we are calm and observant, we are more likely to envision alternative choices and also consider how our actions will affect ourselves and other people, so we can act with intention instead of reacting automatically.
Individuals who behave mindfully …
- Are more confident in going through routine tasks as well as stressful situations
- Come up with creative alternatives when making decisions
- Listen carefully to others, without interrupting them or ignoring important details
- Are considerate of others’ problems and challenges
- Avoid verbal and physical conflicts
- Work carefully on tasks that require concentration
Mindfulness is the intention to be present in the here and now, fully engaged in whatever is happening, free from distraction or judgement, with a soft and open mind. Meditation is the simple exercise to familiarise oneself with the qualities of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not a religion and there is no necessary religious component to mindfulness. Anyone, with any belief system, can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is for everyone from all walks of life, young or old: counselors, teachers, social workers, parents, students, patients, managers, employees, artists, etc.