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July 2, 2020
5 min. read

Mindfulness: What It Is and How to Achieve It

ND Medina

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.

Mindful breathing

  1. Breathe in and out slowly
  2. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
  3. Let go of your thoughts and focus on your breath
  4. Focus your awareness on the pathway of your breath as it enters your body
  5. Focus with awareness on your breath exiting your body

Mindful observation

  1. Choose a natural object in your environment, such as an insect, the clouds or the moon, and focus on watching it for two to three minutes
  2. Don’t do anything except watch the object for as long as your concentration allows
  3. Look at this object as though seeing it for the first time
  4. Visually explore every aspect of its shape and being
  5. Let yourself connect with its energy and purpose in the natural world

Mindful awareness

  1. Think of something that happens every day more than once, such as eating or opening a door
  2. Stop for a moment and be mindful of where you are, how you feel, and where this action leads
  3. Appreciate the body and brain that allow you to interface with this action and facilitate your understanding of how to undertake and achieve it
  4. Touch point cues don’t need to be physical; they can also be mental, as in stopping when you hit a negative though to label it as negative or unhelpful

Mindful listening

  1. Select a piece of music you have never heard before
  2. Don’t judge the music by genre, label, artist, or anything before it has even begun. Instead, neutrally follow the music by sound through the entire journey of its runtime
  3. Explore every aspect of the track, even if you don’t like it, and give your awareness full permission to run free among the waves of sound
  4. Explore the song: try listening to each instrument individually, separating each sound in your mind and dissecting it one by one
  5. Hone in on the vocals; if there are more than one, separate them out as in the previous step. Explore the sound of the voice, its range and tones

Mindful immersion

  1. Choose a daily routine to immerse yourself in, such as washing the dishes or doing the laundry
  2. Pay attention to every detail of the activity, including the motion of your muscles as you work or the motion of your body
  3. Get creative and discover new experiences within this task by becoming aware of every step and immersing yourself in the task fully

Mindful appreciation

  1. Notice five things or people in your day that usually go unappreciated
  2. Give thanks and appreciate the role of these seemingly insignificant things in your life
  3. Find out everything you can about their creation and purpose so you can achieve the fullest possible level of appreciation for their impact in supporting your life

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.

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