What is Mindfulness?

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.— Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

What is mindfulness? To put it simply, it is being aware in the present moment of the things, people and places around us and the emotions we are experiencing; it is acknowledging all of this with kindness and without judgment. 

Humans are creatures of habit, often going through the motions of our daily routines without even putting much thought into it. To practice mindfulness in our day-to-day lives is to deliberately pay attention to the things we may not normally notice — the tree-lined street you may drive on every day on the way to work, the sound of birds chirping when you first wake in the morning, the smell of freshly laundered clothing — simple, perhaps even mundane, details of our lives that we may hardly give a second thought to.

But mindfulness is not just about taking notice of the little details. It is much more; it is a way of life, and incorporating mindfulness regularly into our lives can be as simple as shifting our mindset. 

Take a moment now to think about what your typical day might look like. You wake up, get you and your family ready for the day, drop off the kids at school, commute or drive to work, come home, get dinner, tidy up the kitchen, maybe do a load of laundry or help children with school work, watch a TV show, get ready for bed and go to sleep. Now, can you recall some of the emotions you felt today? Were you impatient with your children because they were running late for school? Did you get frustrated sitting in traffic? Did you arrive home happy to find dinner already cooking? Did you feel proud of your kids for doing chores without needing to remind them? What do you do in those moments when you are experiencing all of those emotions? Do you acknowledge them or do they pass without recognition? When we allow ourselves to notice our thoughts and feelings with compassion we are being mindful. When we bring awareness and care into everything we do we are practicing mindfulness.

For some people, when they hear the word mindfulness they think of meditation, and when they think of meditation they think of sitting alone quietly in a room for a long period of time to focus one’s mind. And while mindfulness is a form of meditation, it does not require dedicating a long period of time to practice. In fact, being mindful can take mere minutes. Consider this scenario: you are sitting in your car and there is a lot of traffic. You’re feeling frustrated because you’ve had a long day and you just want to get home. You can let this frustration turn to anger about a situation you can’t control, or you can take a deep breath, acknowledge how you’re feeling, accept it and let it go. This is mindfulness; plain, simple and only took a few minutes of your time.

To add to this, consider the benefits of mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author, scientist, meditation teacher and founder of the world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, has shown that practicing mindfulness improves our overall well-being, providing positive effects to our physical and psychological health, as well as our behaviour, emotions and attitudes. It has been found that mindfulness plays a key part in reducing stress and our overall happiness in life.

Want to know more about mindfulness? Here are some useful resources:

https://www.mindful.org/what-is-mindfulness/

https://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm

 

I have also found these books to be helpful:

The Little Pocket Book of Mindfulness by Anna Black

Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel

Breathe, Mama, Breathe: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms by Shonda Moralis

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