According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”  In the health and wellness industry in particular, we see this term being used interchangeably with improving mental health, reducing risks of diseases, and even revitalizing our creativity. I like to think of this term as a “power word,” and we don’t have to go far in our social literature to see it.
But what really is mindfulness? And how to be mindful? You’ll find out more about mindfulness in this article.
What Is Mindfulness?
According to the well-known meditation app, Headspace, mindfulness can be thought of as present moment awareness in whatever we’re doing. It’s a practice of being aware of our thoughts and feelings as they come up, without judgement, criticism, or attachment.
In fact, much research has been done on this topic, which sparked the creation of a questionnaire to test where people land in their mindfulness journey. If you’re interested in seeing where you land on the mindfulness scale, take the Mindful Attention Awareness Score (MAAS) here.
Now that we know what mindfulness is, let’s put it in practical terms to help us visualize it in everyday life. Take, for example, your commute to work. For many of us, traffic is an emotionally-laden experience (you can be honest, it’s OK). We may get angry when someone cuts us off, and then proceed to assume that this person is mean and generally rude. The reality is: we don’t know if that person is running late, just like us, or if they’re having a family emergency.
Our emotions and fired-up ego create narratives in our mind that then dictate our response. This not only leads to stress in that moment and for the rest of the day; it also creates habit patterns in our neurological wiring that encourage us to keep this behavior going, long-term.
Instead of approaching our work commute from this attitude, we can incorporate mindfulness by: becoming aware of our seat, how our hands feel on the steering wheel, the temperature in the car, our breathing, the visuals around us, and the noises outside and inside of the car. These are just some examples, but the idea is to be present to the experience of driving.
When we notice emotions come up when someone cuts us off or when we’re sitting in a long traffic queue, we can approach these emotions with awareness, instead of acting on them impulsively.
The beautiful thing about practicing mindfulness is that we can do it any time, anywhere. Here is a list of some practical, easy ways to stay mindful during your day.
Probably one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is through meditation. This practice is centered on being present and noticing what thoughts and feelings come up.
There are many ways in which to meditate, all with personal preference and goal in mind. Starting a beginner’s meditation practice is a powerful way to introduce yourself to the many tools that this lifestyle will open up for you.