What Is Mindfulness And Why Is It Important?
From the moment you wake up in the morning till you go to bed at night, how many actions do you think you consciously do? How many of your thoughts are you consciously aware of? Take a minute and think about it. You will realize that you are hardly even aware of 1% of your thoughts and actions.
It seems like we have evolved to live our lives on autopilot. After all, that requires much less attention and energy on the brain’s part. So, it kind of makes sense and even seems like a good thing.
However, if you think about it on a deeper level, you will realize that automated responses have made us impulsive. Whenever something happens in life that’s even a little out of the script, we lose our balance. It seems like we have lost the ability to respond instead of react.
This is where mindfulness comes in. It is an answer to a lot of the problems we face in our modern world. It is the path to a life of mental peace and serenity. And seeing how things are in the world, it seems like it is the need of the hour. But, what is mindfulness?
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a state where you are totally conscious of the present moment and your place in it. It’s like one of those scenes they show in the movies where a kung fu master is totally aware of everything that’s happening around him and within him at the same time.
But don’t let that discourage you. Mindfulness is not only for kung fu masters or spiritual gurus. Average people like you and me can practice it and get better at it over time. And in doing so, we can develop the ability to live more consciously. Naturally, we become calmer, more peaceful, and our lives become enriched in ways that words can’t even describe.
Pillars of Mindfulness
To be completely mindful, you have to establish three pillars of mindfulness within you. Once you do this, you can be mindful at any time and at any place. Of course, this takes a lot of patience and practice, but you will get there if you keep at it. Let’s take a look at what these three pillars are:
1) Mindfulness of The Body
Your physical body is what you consider as you. So that’s usually where people start their mindfulness practice. It includes being aware of the various parts of your body when you are doing everyday tasks like walking, running, sitting, lying down, and so on.
2) Mindfulness of Thoughts
Thoughts play a huge role in helping you perceive the world and interact with it. They form the basis of everything you do in the world. And given that you have more than 6000 thoughts per day, it’s only logical to try to be mindful of them. So, mindfulness of thoughts means being aware (in a non-judgmental manner) of how your mind thinks and what your predominant thoughts are like.
3) Mindfulness of Emotions
Emotions are how we express ourselves. And they influence our decisions to a large extent. So, you need to be mindful of these emotions so that you can take conscious actions instead of impulsive ones.
Are Meditation And Mindfulness The Same?
Many people think that meditation and mindfulness are the same things. Well, that’s not technically true. Although both have similar elements, they are two distinct practices.
Meditation is usually a practice where you sit down in a posture and focus on a single activity. It could be paying attention to your breath, chanting a mantra, visualizing your dreams, or something else. In some types of meditation, you are even required to attain a state of thoughtlessness.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, is all about awareness. It’s like taking the role of a passive observer in your own life. As such, you experience everything within and outside of you without any attachment. After you’ve practiced mindfulness for a long time, you gain the ability to remain mindful throughout the day, no matter what you are doing.
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has tremendous benefits. This has been known since ancient times, and now, even scientific studies are beginning to acknowledge it. Let’s take a look at some of these below:
1) Mindfulness is good for your heart health.
2) It decreases cognitive decline due to aging.
3) Reduced levels of stress, leading to more mental peace.
4) It helps manage symptoms of illnesses.
5) It decreases depressive symptoms.
6) It improves feelings of general well-being.
7) It can improve your immune response.
8) It may help reduce psychological pain.
9) It can enhance your sleep quality.
10) It can increase your attention span.
11) It helps ease chronic pain.
12) It improves self-esteem.
13) It improves cognitive abilities.
14) It can reduce the effects of addiction.
15) It helps reduce procrastination.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness is a no-brainer. All you have to do is make a conscious choice that you will start being totally involved with everything you are doing. No matter how small or big the activity is, you need to pay your undivided attention to it. Let’s take the example of mindful eating to understand what exactly this entails.
Let’s say you are eating. Now, you can decide to do it mindfully. To do that, you need to make sure there are no other distractions like your smartphone or tv. Then, engage all your senses with the act of eating. Observe your food, even the tiniest of details. How does it look? Smell it and get lost in its aroma. Put a spoonful of food in your mouth and feel the texture of it. Then chew it slowly and pay attention to the sounds that it makes. Observe how your tongue swirls your food around. Then pay attention to how it tastes. Finally, swallow it and feel it going down your food pipe.
This is an example of mindful eating. And you can do the same with any other activity like walking, dancing, talking, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and so on. Slowly, as you practice, mindfulness will become a way of life.