We encounter this word nearly every day, at work, on social media, and in our daily lives: mindfulness. Whether it’s influencers on Instagram talking about “being present” or athletes discussing their meditation habits. Even elementary school students are learning and practicing yoga as a way to regulate their behaviors. Mindfulness encourages all of us to live more fully in the moment.
But who has time for that? For many people, it seems too overwhelming to try to squeeze “something else” into our already full and hectic lives. People don’t often practice mindfulness because they simply don’t know where to start. Becoming mindful can be a key component in a joyous life.
Why is mindfulness so important for a healthy life, brain, and body, and what are some of the benefits of mindfulness practice in our daily lives?
How can mindfulness help us stay present, become more aware of the richness of our lives, and help us be our most authentic selves?
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What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is, at its core, awareness. It is when the mind pays attention to where we are and what we’re doing. Mindfulness invites us to be present in the here and now without living in the past or projecting into the future. Mindfulness is becoming aware of how we’re interacting, without judgment or attachment, with the world around us. The best part about mindfulness is that it’s available to all of us; we can engage and access each moment with the right tools.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
There are many ways we can approach and incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives. Sometimes it can be deep breathing. Sometimes, simply focusing and paying attention, and quieting our inner mind, is another way we can cultivate mindfulness. It can be through meditation, yoga, exercise, and gardening. Yes, even cleaning the house can help us practice mindfulness! It can be movement: being in nature or taking a walk and observing our immediate environments. Or it can be through stillness: body scanning, birdwatching, being with our kids, or napping. Setting intentions, too, can be a powerful way to practice mindfulness. Whether it’s a ritual, an act, or complete silence, mindfulness is when we are most aware, connected, and present for ourselves and others.
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness?
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. Aside from quieting our frazzled minds and gently lifting our spirits, we know that mindfulness allows us to connect deeply to what is around us. When we can tune out the inner chatter, we are more attuned to the moment and able to see clearly. As well, mindfulness can help strengthen our relationships, ease stress, and make life more manageable. When we make mindfulness a priority, we come back to our bodies and increase our sense of well-being. Taking time in our busy days to pause gives us back ownership of our thoughts. It can be an act of healing and discovery to learn more about who we are, empowering us to step further into our truest selves.
How Does Mindfulness Help Mental Health?
When we’re grounded in our bodies, when we’re mindful and aware, we can think clearly. As we move through different situations in our days, mindfulness allows us to change our habits and engage more thoughtfully with ourselves and others. Often, mindfulness allows us to see the bigger picture and that our reactions are just a fraction, not the full picture of our lives.
Mindfulness can support our mental health; it can help ease depression, anxiety, and stress, showing us our thought patterns. Many times, when we’re experiencing grief, trauma, or hurt, we often resist the “now” because it’s too painful. But, it can be incredibly helpful to hold our feelings, resisting the temptation to bury or suppress our emotions. Being careful with ourselves and with the help of a supportive therapist, mindfulness can help us look objectively at our feelings, notice them, feel them, and learn from our experiences. The idea that “everything is teaching us something” can make us mindful and curious about our lives.
Mindfulness can give us much-needed perspective and peace. When our stress levels are lowered, we are often less anxious and less apt to dip into shame and self-criticism. Being mindful can also give us a sense of control; less things are happening to us, and more that things are happening “for us.” It can help us flip the script and open up space within ourselves to practice self-compassion, too.
Being in the moment allows us to see situations as they are and gives us hope for how we wish to move forward. Mindfulness can help us be our best selves. Truly, being present and living in the now is the best gift we can give ourselves.
Lindsey Ferris, MS, LMFTA, Washington State