Mindfulness is a practice where we intensely focus on being aware of our senses and feelings in that specific moment. It is a state of awareness that promotes our physical and psychological well-being.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about living in the present moment, intensely focusing on what one is sensing and feeling in the moment. It refers to a mental state of awareness that mostly arises through paying attention and being completely engaged in what is happening in our surroundings. To reach this psychological state of mind, an individual needs to non-judgmentally focus on their bodily sensations, surrounding environment, thoughts, emotions, and feelings. It can also be characterized by a soothing practice that relaxes our mind and body and is extremely beneficial in reducing emotional distress. It is also closely associated with acceptance which implies we are accepting what we are feeling and thinking without judging them. When a person practices mindfulness, their thoughts transform into what they are sensing in that present moment without ruminating about their past or imagining their future.
A 2019 research paper 1 defines mindfulness as “the process by which one attends to present-moment sensations, thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a non-judgmental manner.” This study suggests that this practice is a significant part of treatment for many mental health disorders. Psychologists believe that it has a broad range of positive effects on a person’s overall well-being and also reduces the severity of different symptoms. It involves guided imagery, different breathing techniques, and other practices that help to relax our mind and body. Many researchers 2 agree that it is now considered an increasingly popular therapeutic approach. They have tried out mindfulness-based interventions to treat many mental disorders and observed beneficial outcomes.
Every person has to go through a lot of difficulties during the course of their lives. In such situations, most of us spend our precious time daydreaming, problem-solving, planning for our future and thinking about negative consequences. All of these can result in emotional distress for a person. It also increases the risk of experiencing depression, stress, and anxiety. Studies 3 have shown that regular mindfulness practice can divert our attention from these kinds of thoughts and it helps us to be in a world that is generally happier and less reactive.
Many psychologists 4 argue that it is about reconnecting with one’s body and the sensations the body experiences. One needs to be intentionally aware and awake to reach this mental state. It is also considered a kind of psychological freedom that occurs when our attention or focus is silent and is not based on any of our points of view. A 2018 research 5 has described mindfulness as the moment-to-moment awareness of a person’s present experience without any distraction and judgment. Many may consider it as a human personality trait, but in reality, it is a human state of mind. It not only has numerous positive impacts on our life but also teaches us to live and breathe more mindfully.
Read More About Anxiety Here
Mindfulness At A Glance
- Mindfulness is a practice where we intensely focus on being aware of our senses and feelings in that specific moment.
- It is the moment-to-moment awareness of a person’s present experience without any distraction and judgment.
- This practice can divert our attention from negative thoughts and provides a broad range of physical and psychological benefits.
- Mindfulness strengthens the effects of meditation and meditation nourishes the impacts of mindfulness.
- It is considered extremely beneficial for people with obesity, seasonal depression, and sleeping difficulties.
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation are two different terms with two different meanings. But at the same time, they are closely interconnected with each other. According to a recent study 6, these two stress-relieving techniques enhance each other’s benefits as mindfulness strengthens the effects of meditation, and similarly, meditation nourishes the effects of mindfulness. There is also a significant difference between these two – we generally practice meditation on a regular basis for a specific amount of time, while we can apply mindfulness in any type of situation.
Another difference is that mindfulness doesn’t eliminate stress completely rather it teaches us how we can effectively handle or deal with challenging situations and emotional distress caused by them. It also teaches us a better way to react more calmly when we face any kind of stress or hurdles. Meanwhile, meditation provides us a training ground for learning mindfulness.
Read More About Meditation Here
How Does Mindfulness Work?
It effectively works on a person’s body and mind in a variety of ways. It not only helps to change the way we think about our lives but also shapes our ideas and perspectives 7. A 2011 study 8 has shown that it can even change the shape of our brains and modify it with positive thoughts and emotions. This study explains that it allows our brain to move from high-frequency waves to low-frequency waves which are associated with the activation of certain brain areas.
Apart from all these, mindfulness can change several areas of the human brain, such as:
- A process called neuroplasticity 9
- The grey matter (responsible for planning, emotion regulation, and problem-solving) 10
- Cortical thickness (responsible for memory and learning) 11.
Researchers 12 say that it also decreases the neurological connections in the medial prefrontal cortex and reduces some negative personality traits, such as stress, fear, and anxiety. Additionally, it builds new pathways in those brain regions that are responsible for focus and decision-making.
Benefits Of Mindfulness
After studying the impacts in many clinical trials, the researchers have come to know that there is a broad range of physical and psychological benefits of regularly practicing mindfulness. The following are some of the most common benefits:
1. Eases Chronic Pain
Research 13 suggests that mindfulness plays an active role in reducing chronic physical pain. This practice is associated with stress-reduction therapy which is considered extremely helpful in improving chronic pain. It also helps people to perform their daily activities with greater comfort.
Read More About Chronic Pain Here
2. Reduces Stress And Anxiety
It can reduce the severity of a person’s anxiety or stress symptoms. A study 14 has discovered that mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy is beneficial specifically for seasonal depression disorder (SAD) patients. Studies 15 have shown that it helps us to learn how we can better control our mind and body so that we can effectively deal with stress and anxiety. For this characteristic of mindfulness, many psychologists recommend or prescribe mindfulness along with anti-depression medication for depression patients.
Read More About Stress Here
3. Improves Sleep Quality
A 2019 research paper 16 has stated that older adults with sleeping difficulties can have a short-term improvement in their sleeping quality by practicing mindfulness. Sleep deprivation can result in a variety of other severe mental health problems, if one is suffering from such sleeping difficulties, practicing mindfulness can help them a lot.
4. Controls Body Weight
Practicing mindfulness while having food can immensely help to control body weight. When you are having your meals, try to focus on that only. Avoid using any type of digital gadget or any other distractions when you are having your food. This practice is proved to be extremely beneficial for obese people 17 as it helps them to easily digest the food and stabilize their body weight.
Other psychological benefits of mindfulness include:
- Prevents negative thoughts and emotions 18
- Improves or enhances visual attention 19
- Improves emotional intelligence 20
- Improves working memory 21
- Improves awareness
- Decreases job burnout 22
- Promotes overall health and well-being
Tips To Practice Mindfulness Effectively
Practicing mindfulness regularly provides numerous health benefits, but there are a few useful ways to practice mindfulness that can increase the effectiveness of those benefits. Here are some of the helpful tips to practice it:
- Try to regularly practice meditation as it enhances the positive effects of mindfulness.
- Be aware of your breath and focus on how your abdominal area rises and falls with each breath you take.
- Make a habit of taking notes whenever you engage in any kind of activity. Take notes on what you are sensing when you are sitting, relaxing, and standing.
- Take time to experience your surrounding environment by using all your senses.
- Try to relax more and do not let yourself rush. You don’t need to do anything at every moment.
- Try listening to your heart without judging your thoughts and distracting yourself.
- Spend more time in nature. Find a quiet place, sit there, and try to gather your thoughts.
How To Be More Mindful?
Being mindful comes with a broad range of physical, psychological, and social benefits. Meditation has proved to be a great way to practice mindfulness. But along with meditation, there are some other ways through which you can become more mindful in your daily life. The following are some common tips that will help you to become more mindful, such as:
1. Make Time For Yourself
In today’s world, everyone is going through their own struggles. Making time for oneself after a hectic day is extremely difficult for a person. But psychologists suggest that spending time alone provides a lot of health benefits, specifically helping a person to become more mindful. Try to make time for yourself in between your busy schedule. Sit in a place quietly and follow your breathing.
2. Stay Focused
Try to focus on one thing at a time and don’t get engaged in a variety of activities at one time. Though multitasking is considered a helpful skill in the professional world, it can create a number of errors too which will need more attention later and consume more time as well. That’s why it is important to stay focused on a particular activity at one time and pay attention to something that you do every day. Try to consider uni-tasking rather than multitasking.
3. Eat Mindfully
Eating is an extremely important activity in our daily routine as it is associated not only with our health but also with our emotions. Avoid using any kind of technology, including watching TV, using mobile phones, or reading newspapers while eating. Mindful eating helps you in tasting and enjoying food with your soul.
4. Restrict Your Screen Time
Many psychologists recommend their patients restrict their screentime to treat different types of mental health disorders. Though it is not known, reducing screen time has a positive impact on a person’s mind also. It keeps one away from distractions and helps him/her to become more mindful.
5. Be Curious About Situations
Many times we feel confused about how to respond to a specific situation and being curious about the same is the only solution for this problem. Approaching different situations with curiosity helps a person to better observe a variety of things and understand different aspects. Curiosity will help you to get out of the difficult headspace and become more mindful. Always try to be curious to know and learn.
6. Breathe Whenever You Can
Breathing is considered one of the most important parts of practicing mindfulness as it is the only activity that we do out of necessity. It helps one to bring their awareness back and keeps them calm and focused. Practice different breathing exercises to become more mindful.
Mindfulness is a practice that provides a variety of physical and psychological benefits to a person. It is also considered a human state of mind that allows people to be completely engaged in the present moment without any distractions and judgment. Many psychologists agree that practicing mindfulness not only treats many illnesses but also reduces the severity of some symptoms of mental health disorders. In simple words, it promotes our overall health and well-being, improves our quality of life rather helps us to learn how we can deal with difficult situations and act accordingly.References:
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