Many people describe mindfulness as a form of meditation, however, Positive Psychology explains that “mindfulness is a quality; mediation is a practice…mindfulness describes a specific way of living that can be cultivated through practice.” Meditation is the process by which a person can intimately learn the interworking of his or her own mind. Mindfulness, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is “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.” The University of Minnesota shares the three most important characteristics of mindfulness, which include:
- Intention to cultivate deliberate awareness (and return to it again and again)
- Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise) while remaining nonreactive
- Attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind (not seeing things as good or bad, nor through the filter of personal judgments based on past conditioning, but rather seeing things “as they are)
There are myriad different ways to practice mindfulness. If a person is new to the practice of mindfulness, it can be helpful for him or her to seek out a more structured method of practice, such as attending a yoga class. A participant will move his or her body through several different yoga poses throughout the class, with the guidance of an instructor, while focusing on his or her breath and how his or her body feels in each pose. This intense focus on oneself is a great example of practicing mindfulness. A person will not be able to successfully participate in a yoga class if he or she is focused elsewhere, as many of the physical demands (e.g., balance poses) will not allow it. Another way to practice mindfulness is through traditional meditation. Whether it be in a guided mediation class or devoting a specific amount of time to practice meditation alone, this can be helpful in learning to be nonreactive while simultaneously being fully present at the moment.
There is an array of benefits to practicing mindfulness. The Mayo Clinic explains that the practice of mindfulness involves focusing on “being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment without interpretation or judgment.” There have been studies that indicate that the tranquility effects of practicing mindfulness can be directly correlated to a reduction in one’s stress levels, which can subsequently have a positive effect on one’s immune system. Regularly practicing mindfulness can result in an individual lowering his or her blood pressure, can help to improve one’s heart rate, and can even help to improve one’s breathing. One study found that individuals who regularly practiced mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, throughout the study lowered the thickness of their arterial walls. This finding implies that these individuals have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. The purpose of practicing mindfulness techniques is to help increase one’s ability to regulate emotions, which simultaneously decreases unwanted feelings such as stress, anxiety, and/ or depression. The benefits of practicing mindfulness will be most robustly experienced if an individual incorporates it, with regularity, into his or her daily routine.
The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.