Mindfulness is our basic human ability to be fully present in our lives. To be really aware of where we are, what we are experiencing and what we’re doing. And to not be overly reactive or feeling overwhelmed by what’s going on.
Mindfulness is a valuable life skill that anyone can further develop!
We all have spontaneous experiences of being mindful every now and then, for example when we are in a beautiful natural environment and we feel ourselves really 'here', soaking up the beauty and peacefulness with our senses. Or when something really special is happening, and we are paying such close attention that nothing else exists.
Compare this to other moments in our lives when we are 'mind-less': our body is here, but our attention is caught up in thinking about the past or future, or we are in commentary about the present. Then we don't really experience our life directly and fully, but through a veil of (often negative) interpretations, stories and expectations.
When we become more mindful, we experience more ease and enjoyment in our daily life. We also find ourselves being able to stay calmer when faced with the inevitable challenges of life, and able to make more conscious choices in how to respond. And we then tend to respond with more wisdom and kindness to these challenges, and more in line with our true values.
How to become more mindful?
Mindfulness can be seen as a skill that anyone can learn, or as a fitness that anyone can develop. As with all skills, it is something that requires practice: consistent and repeated 'doing it' over a period of time.
There are two ways in which we can train ourselves to become more mindful:
Through formal practice, also called mindfulness meditation. This is when we set aside a period of time to sit or lie down, and work with our mind in a particular way, for example by paying attention to our breathing or body sensations.
Through informal practice, or mindfulness in daily life. This is about bringing awareness to the present moment non-judgmentally in our daily lives. For example, while we are in the shower, walking our dog, or doing the dishes. And also when someone cuts us off in traffic or someone says or does something that 'pushes our buttons'!
Both mindfulness meditation and mindfulness in daily life are important and support each other.
The benefits according to science...
Hundreds of scientific studies have investigated the benefits people get from practicing mindfulness. Some of those benefits are:
A reduction in stress, anxiety, irritability and depression
An increase in positive mood and general well-being
The capacity to cope better with challenging situations
Improved cognitive functioning, such as better concentration and focus, better decision making, better memory
An increase in self-compassion
Improved relationships with other people, including family and work colleagues
Improved immune function and physical health
A reduction in chronic pain
Mindfulness retrains your brain!
Various studies found that practicing mindfulness regularly over a period of time leads to changes in both the structure and functioning of various brain areas.
It's these brain changes that lead to the benefits found in other scientific studies.
Want to learn more?
Mindfulness sounds simple, but learning it and applying it successfully in daily life is definitely not easy!
Learning mindfulness under the guidance of a professionally trained and very experienced teacher makes it much more likely you will really 'get' it, and will experience the many benefits that are possible for yourself.