Engaging in mindfulness meditation sounds like a good idea, but what does it really mean? Luckily, the short answer is relatively simple. Mindfulness is all about staying in the moment-by-moment of your existence, staying aware of your thoughts, feelings, surrounding environment and bodily sensations through a non-judgmental and nurturing lens.
Mindfulness is also about acceptance. This means we allow our thoughts and feelings to flow through us without pausing to judge them as either good or bad, but instead taking them on their own merit for what they are and allowing them to ebb and flow naturally. Mindfulness is about sensing the present moment, not going over the mistakes of the past or fretting about the state of the future.
Benefits to Mindfulness
There are many benefits to a daily mindfulness practice. Some of these benefits include:
• Mindfulness boosts our immune system and improves sleep quality • Mindfulness increases positive emotions while decreasing negative ones, including stress. One study suggests mindfulness may be at least as effective as antidepressants in fighting depression and/or a relapse of depression • Mindfulness actually changes our brains, increasing the amount of our gray matter devoted to memory, attention, and decision-making while also helping us be more effective at tuning out distractions • Mindfulness training improves relationships between couples, making each person in the couple more optimistic and accepting, even more relaxed and closer with one another • Mindfulness has positive impacts on our self-esteem, improving our self-image and sense of self • Mindfulness helps us be more resilient against negative self-talk or feedback, which could be especially important in jobs that require exposure to potentially traumatizing situations such as social work, police work, caregivers, and veterans • Mindfulness helps us eliminate our mental biases by reducing not only our implicit biases but the kinds of language we use. Researchers have found that part of how this works is by lessening our connection to prejudicial biases and opening our minds to treat people more openly and fairly • Mindfulness training is an effective practice for business leaders, by making them more confident, focused and creative and in turn leading to increased customer satisfaction • Mindfulness is good for parents-to-be and parents, reducing stress related to pregnancy and birth and causing parents to choose more positive parenting practices. This has a ripple effect on the children, who are less susceptible to anxious diseases and have better social skills as well • Mindfulness increases self-compassion in teens, lowering their risk of stress and depression • Mindfulness in schools reduces stress, behavior problems and aggression in students and improves their ability to focus and self-regulate. Teachers trained in mindfulness have lower blood pressure, less negative emotions, and greater compassion and empathy coupled with more effective teaching • Mindfulness helps health care professionals, including mental health care professionals, connect with their patients while having a better quality of life, increasing positive emotions and self-compassion • Mindfulness training helps prisoners in their rehabilitation and reintegration efforts by reducing mood disturbances such as anger and hostility and increasing their awareness of their thoughts and emotions • Mindfulness helps veterans reduce symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) • Mindfulness helps battle obesity by encouraging healthier eating habits and the savoring of the food you do eat
How to Build a Mindfulness Practice
There are six short, small exercises that can be done almost anywhere and contribute to the development of a mindfulness practice.
Minute-by-minute, second-by-second mindfulness helps us appreciate our life, helps uplift our emotions into positive ones and helps us to cope with the difficult and unpleasant stressors of everyday life. By incorporating a mindfulness practice in your daily routine, you harness the ability of your mind to be rooted in the present moment rather than trapped by embarrassments or failures of the past, or worries for the future. This helps us to be clear-minded, calm and assertive for the next challenges we face.