What is Mindfulness and Why Does it Matter?

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mindfulness meditation

What is Mindfulness and Why Does it Matter?

Mental health is a hot topic in the world today, and for a good reason. Most people, especially women, will experience a mental illness at least once in their lives. Fortunately, many helpful tactics can help improve your overall wellness, increase your satisfaction in life, and empower you to live more fully. Mindfulness is a highly successful tactic that is easy to implement and extremely beneficial.


What is Mindfulness?

When people think of mindfulness, they may picture a Buddhist monk meditating in a monastery or a person sitting criss-cross with their eyes closed for hours on end. If this is how you imagine mindfulness, then you may be feeling tentative and overwhelmed with the idea of implementing it into your daily life.


In reality, mindfulness is a much larger, overarching umbrella that can incorporate a variety of different activities, affirmations, and devotions. You don’t need to meditate for hours or join a monastery to be a master at mindfulness. Rather, the operational definition of mindfulness describes it as a type of awareness. The goal of mindfulness is to center a person in the present and help them acknowledge their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. So, to be mindful is not to be a yoga guru or meditation junky. It is a simple change of attitude to a proactive frame of mind. Everyone can do it!


The Three Components of Mindfulness

According to research done by Shapiro and colleagues, there are three components of mindfulness:

  1. Intention

  2. Attention

  3. Attitude


Intention

Intention is defined as striving to do things with a purpose. After all, the reason why we want to be mindful in the first place is to be more intentional about how we live our lives. In other words, striving to be more intentional is the same as striving to be more proactive and purposeful. It forces mindfulness-seekers to understand why they exist, what meaning they have, and why they do what they do. If our intentions are clear, then our path to achieve those intentions also becomes clear.


Attention

Attention involves paying closer attention, or being more attentive, to our inner and outer worlds. When looking at a painting, you can either step up close to that painting to appreciate the individualized textures and colors, or you can step back and enjoy the cumulative arrangement of those textures and colors. Similar to life, one can take the time to focus on the little things, like the way a cup of tea tastes, or appreciate the bigger picture, like one’s overall quality of life. Part of mindfulness is practicing to be more attentive to the big things as well as the small things.


Attitude

Finally, attitude is the third component of mindfulness. As you practice mindfulness, you will discover that everything in life can be done in a particular way. You can either participate in a class or doze off in the back. You can either look out the window during your bus ride or scroll through Facebook. Similarly, we can choose how we view our world and ourselves. One of the predominant purposes of mindfulness is to learn patience, trust, acceptance, and non-judgmental attitudes toward yourself. In other words, change how you meet the challenges of life.


Benefits of Mindfulness

This may come as a surprise, but there is actually a lot of psychological and neurological evidence backing mindfulness as a health-promoting activity and attitude. In general, professionals have realized that, just like someone can exercise to strengthen the capacity of their lungs or heart, we can strengthen our minds as well. Mindfulness is to your mind as dumbbells are to your arms; it can strengthen your focus, emotional intelligence, and even memory! Furthermore, mindfulness can boost your emotional stamina and make you a calmer, happier, more successful person.


How to Develop Mindfulness

As previously noted, mindfulness doesn’t have to be an arduous, daily chore; rather, just a couple of minutes practicing mindfulness every day can totally change your life. Here are two different ways in which you can easily incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.


Your Five Senses

You may find your mind wandering while practicing meditation or mindfulness, but here is a tried-and-true method that will keep you focused during your practice. 


First, take a moment to count five things that you see. Perhaps you are outside, and you see the grass, the mountains in the distance, the clouds in the sky, the smooth wood finishing of your chair, and the flight of a starling. 


Second, take a mental note of four things you hear: maybe it’s the sound of a lawnmower, the chittering of birds, the whooshing of the wind through the trees, and the rumbling of cars passing by.


Third, note three things that you feel, like the chilly morning air or the softness of your fleece jacket. 


Fourth, count two things that you smell: the smell of cut grass and the freshness of morning dew. 


Finally, focus on what you are tasting, even if it is just the natural taste of your mouth. This activity literally takes only a couple of minutes, and it can help you be more attentive to your surroundings and sensations.


Mindful Listening

This is another easy one. For a couple of minutes—even just thirty seconds—put down your phone, close your eyes, and just listen. Listen to what is going around you, whether it is the crackling of ice in your glass of water or the whispering of wind through the trees. While you are listening, take deep breaths, breathing in for five seconds, holding it for five seconds, and then exhaling for five seconds. Deep breathing mixed with mindful listening can help you focus on the present and increase blood flow to your brain, boosting your mood.


If you have been trying to incorporate mindfulness into your life, but nothing seems to work, it may be time to get mindfulness counseling. A mindfulness counselor or mindfulness coach can help you learn to be more mindful and purposeful in your life. Locate your local mindfulness meditation center for more information on coaches and counselors in your area. You aren’t alone in your journey to mindfulness healing and recovery.

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