Categories
Wellness

What Is Mindfulness?

The practice of taking time to become aware of the present moment in every moment of your day.

Mindfulness has long been regarded as a luxury, something we can pay for in the real world by seeking out a private retreat. Mindfulness has been viewed by the media as a religion, something only some privileged beings can afford. If you’re a journalist or a TV personality or an actor in a movie, chances are, the concept of mindfulness will be completely foreign to you. But how many of us actually pay attention to what’s going on right now? We’re always busy, always on, always looking for something, looking for what. And we’re all too often caught by a wave of distraction. When we’re distracted, we can only experience the past, the future, or either half of one of those things simultaneously: now. I have found that awareness of the present moment in every moment of my day leads to peace, clarity, and a sense of calmness. It is the practice of mindfulness — the practice of stopping to notice what’s going on right now and focusing on it instead of on the distant past, the future, or neither. And yet, for many, mindfulness has fallen into a niche of what many people take for granted as essential — sitting in front of a computer or TV, surfing the Internet, or reading a book. This has given people the impression that it’s something that’s for those who can easily afford or choose to do.

Here’s the thing: it’s not. In their study of the effects of mindfulness on the brain , neuroscientist Paul Pasek and his colleagues conclude that it’s “practicing mindfulness that directly changes the way the human brain develops, not something you can buy from a bookstore.” The practice of mindfulness has been shown to be highly effective at preventing the brain’s normal developmental decline and age-related structural changes.

Here’s more bad news: practicing mindfulness can help you live to a ripe old age. The study found that those who maintained constant mindfulness throughout their lives showed significantly lower rates of vascular and cardiac death than compared to those who did not maintain a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can also have positive effects other than physical longevity. It is often thought that meditation is associated with a reduced tendency to suffer from depression, but recent research has shown that mindfulness meditation can actually be a catalyst for depression reduction. A study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison , which involved a pilot program in Madison, found that it wasn’t the benefits of meditation that made it work, but mindfulness practice itself: People who reported more mindfulness in their daily lives had significantly less depression during the initial period of the study, than those who reported less mindfulness.

Another area of research has explored the effects of mindfulness meditation on the mind. This research has shown that the practice of mindfulness can directly affect a person’s ability to think analytically and rationally. A new review published recently in the Journal of Positive Psychology shows that “the results of this study indicate that mindfulness training improves thinking and behavior in a variety of cognitive and neurocultural domains. The effect sizes of the individual effects in the current sample indicate that even brief mindfulness meditation intervention can lead to measurable and positive changes for psychological and psychological health. Further research with larger samples is now warranted to understand the effects of these interventions in a larger population of individuals.”

But the best aspect of mindfulness practice is that it can be practiced in any given moment at any given time for virtually any purpose. The problem with most of the “alternative” mindfulness practices is that they’re too complicated or take too long to learn. The good news is that mindfulness is easily learned and can be practiced anywhere, and when practiced in practice, it doesn’t involve any special equipment or equipment necessary. The only thing necessary to practice mindful sitting in the present moment is your mind.

Most people tend to think of mindfulness as something that can improve your mood. And while that’s true, it’s more about how it can enhance your emotional control than whether those effects are positive or negative, or any meaningful differences. It is also possible to learn mindfulness in the same way that you learn any other skill: slowly, step by step, with practice. And once you learn it, a single moment of conscious time spent in the present moment can have measurable and significant benefits to your emotional, psychological, physical, intellectual, and even spiritual well being.

You can be mindful, and you can be mindful anywhere.

It starts with a simple, yet powerful, exercise

It’s easy to get distracted or to become over-focused or to be easily pulled into an obsessive process when you’re sitting here in your office or in your home.