Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally
Mindfulness as a “nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, sensation that arises … is acknowledged and accepted as it is.”
History of Mindfulness
the practices that cultivate mindfulness originally come from a more than 2,500-year-old Buddhist tradition. As the West came into contact with these practices from the East, they were taught from within the traditional Buddhist context, as well as adapted into a secular context that did not incorporate the original cultural or doctrinal elements.
There are many different practices that can support the development of mindfulness, including different types of sitting meditation, movement, or even simply being in nature. This site describes some of these mindfulness meditation techniques. In general, they seek to develop three key characteristics of mindfulness:
- Intention to cultivate awareness (and return to it again and again)
- Attention to what is occurring in the present moment (simply observing thoughts, feelings, sensations as they arise)
- An attitude that is non-judgmental, curious, and kind
awareness of breathing—is one of the most common ways to develop mindfulness, but there is no one “right” practice. Other practices might place the attention on sensations in the body, or sounds, or even an open awareness of whatever is arising. All of this helps develop steady attention that is firmly grounded in the present moment.
Mindfulness is not always easy because other experiences (thoughts, feelings, physical discomfort) naturally arise and can pull our attention away. But with practice, our skill increases, and we can pay attention to our chosen object without getting lost in other experiences. And we find that we can also simultaneously notice any underlying reactivity, such as annoyance
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness Improves Well-being
By increasing mindfulness, you support many positive attitudes in your daily life. You will be able to savor the pleasures of life more easily, become more fully engaged in whatever you are doing, and be more resilient to adverse events by practicing mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness often leads to avoiding worries about the future and regrets of the past, controlling concerns about self-esteem and success, and forming deeper connections with others.
Mindfulness Improves Physical Health
If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can:
- help relieve stress
- treat heart disease
- lower blood pressure
- reduce chronic pain
- improve sleep
- alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
Mindfulness Improves Mental Health
In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:
- substance abuse
- eating disorders
- couples’ conflicts
- anxiety disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways. A mindfulness technique, however, aims to achieve a calm, relaxed state by consciously paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judging them. The present moment can then be refocused. A mindfulness technique is a meditation technique.
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.