What is Mindfulness? How can it help you?

Mindfulness. What do you think of when you read this word? Does it make you think about all the things that are on your mind? Does it make you think of meditation? Does it sound difficult? Does it sound peaceful? One can have any of these reactions to the word and all of them.

Our minds can be pretty chaotic from moment to moment. It’s as if our minds are in control of us rather than us being in control of our minds. Our minds are meant to be a tool, but somewhere along the way, our brains grabbed ahold of the leash when it’s supposed to be the other way around. To illustrate, just sit there for even 20 seconds and merely pay attention to your thoughts, and if you are comfortable, feel free to do so with your eyes closed. Go ahead. Just 20 seconds. When you are done, come back…

If you are like most people, you will have noticed that your mind was all over the place. Even for just 20 seconds. Maybe you thought, “Why would I want to do this?” Then, “This is probably a challenge. I accept this challenge… Wait, what’s this challenge supposed to be? Am I supposed to think of nothing? How do I think of nothing? Am I supposed to just be pay attention to what I am thinking?” And by that moment, time was already up. Some of these thoughts may have passed through your mind, or none at all. Maybe a completely different set of thoughts pushed their way into your mind. It’s okay. This is normal. And no, this was not a test, just a way to help you observe. There are no tests with mindfulness. That’s part of the beauty of it: no tests, no should’s, no have to’s, no right’s, no wrong’s, no judgments. Just the practice of being present and accepting what comes into our experience.

Why is this important? Because painful emotions come from being lost in thought, even when we don’t realize we are lost in thought. Our minds are time travelers and just love to pull up the past and future. Our minds are not used to just being present… just being. Think about a recent time you were anxious? What were you thinking about? Probably something in the future. What about a time you were angry? You were thinking about a time in the past or a perceived issue in the future. The mind can play tricks on us in this way. What if we can learn to quiet this all down and, as a result, begin to let go of those uncomfortable feelings and compulsive behaviors that are a result of our time-traveling mind?

Mindfulness engages the practice of quieting our minds through various techniques that allow us to be more present and, thus, more at ease, more at peace, happier, more joyful, and certainly, less suffering is experienced as a result. We have the ability to use our bodies (which, unlike our minds, do not time travel—our bodies are always in the present) to help us cultivate this state of alert awareness and acceptance.

There are different techniques one can learn in order to experience this greater level of peace and stillness. Meditation is one of them, a powerful practice at that. Yoga is another. Breathing exercises, body scanning, and progressive muscle relaxation are still others, and there are more. Mindfulness, in fact, is a way of life that, when practiced, can significantly change your life. In time, you will learn that mindfulness is the most natural thing in the world. Would you like to know more about how and why mindfulness works? Feel free to watch the videos below.

How Anxiety and Stress Manifest Themselves

What is the Stress Response?

What is Mindfulness?