Post Updated on December 27, 2019
Mindfulness is quite the buzzword right now. These days, people can give advice about practically anything and manage to put a mindfulness spin on it. However, I don’t want you to think this makes mindfulness unworthy of your time. It’s absolutely worth your time.
After all, I’ve been sharing my experience and tips with mindfulness since I started blogging. Even the name The Blissful Mind came from the idea that health and happiness begins in our mind. I believe that mindfulness is the tool that can help us achieve a more blissful state of mind.
Now, you might have stumbled upon this guide because you’ve heard about mindfulness and want to know what the heck it’s all about. Maybe you’re not sure about the principles behind mindfulness or why it’s so important. Maybe you simply want to find out how to make mindfulness more practical.
No matter how you got to this post, I’m here to break down mindfulness into the basics. In this post, you’ll learn more about what mindfulness actually is, why it’s important, and how you can use it in your daily life. My goal is to help you see that mindfulness can be a super practical tool to help you find more joy in your daily life. Let’s get started!
The Basics of Mindfulness
Just as you eat food and take yoga classes to nourish your body, you need to nourish your mind in order to keep it healthy and well. If we think of mindfulness like food for the mind, the concept becomes a lot easier to grasp. Let’s start by talking about what mindfulness is…and is not.
What Mindfulness Is
The official definition: Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.
What that really means: Mindfulness is a state of being when your body and mind are in the same place at the same time. That means bringing attention to what you are doing and where you are, without worrying about the future or the past.
Think of it like you’re sitting at your desk and eating a granola bar and all of a sudden you’re aware that you’re sitting at your desk and eating a granola bar. You’re not worried about what you’re going to eat for dinner or thinking about how you embarrassed yourself earlier this morning. You’re just in that moment, as it happens.
What that looks like in daily life: Most of us spend our days half-aware of what we’re doing and what we’re thinking. We live on autopilot and go through our routines without noticing what we’re doing unless our routine is thrown off.
Mindfulness develops by noticing mindlessness and using this awareness to be more intentional with your actions. If you can bring more intention to your routines and take time to schedule in mindfulness practices, you can begin to reap the benefits of mindfulness.
What Mindfulness Is Not
Despite its roots in Eastern religion, mindfulness isn’t inherently religious. Mindfulness is a secular practice that can be used by those who practice religion and those who don’t. As someone who is not religious, I find mindfulness has actually allowed me to connect with my spiritual side.
Mindfulness is also not synonymous with meditation. Rather, meditation is a practice that helps us to be more mindful (we’ll talk about types of mindfulness practices later).
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Why is mindfulness so popular?
Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years with roots in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. However, mindfulness became increasingly popular in the West primarily because of Jon Kabat-Zinn who created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in the 1970s.
In the early 2000s, there was an explosion of research in mindfulness interventions which could explain why mindfulness has become so popular today. In a society where busyness and burnout are the norm, mindfulness offers an alternate experience of living that has been shown to provide enormous benefits.
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Why practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness helps us to connect with ourselves and others, react productively to stressful situations, and find more balance in our busy lives. Research on mindfulness has shown that there are many benefits* to mindfulness, including:
- Decreased stress response
- Increased immune system activity
- Increased capacity for compassion
- Improved ability to regulate emotions
- Increased ability to relax
- Improvements in chronic pain levels
- Improvements in anxiety and depression symptoms
- Improved ability to experience moments with greater clarity and objectivity
*It’s important to note that much of the research on mindfulness is done in controlled groups led by trained professionals, so the results might not always be the same if you are simply practicing mindfulness without guidance.
The 7 Attitudes of Mindfulness
To truly make mindfulness part of you life, you need to have the right attitude and mindset. There are seven attitudes of mindfulness as described by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book, Full Catastrophe Living:
- Non-Judging: Noticing when you’re being judgmental of yourself and others
- Patience: Letting things unfold in their own time without rushing
- Beginner’s Mind: Being receptive to new possibilities and realizing you don’t need to know all of the answers
- Trust: Trusting in yourself and taking responsibility for your actions
- Non-Striving: Not forcing certain results to happen and letting things happen in their own time
- Acceptance: Accepting things as they are in the moment without denying or trying to change things
- Letting Go: Being willing to let go of the things, people, or ideas that prevent you from living in the moment
Types of Mindfulness
In order to make mindfulness part of your life, you need to make it a regular practice. Mindfulness practices are essential because they encourage us to focus on the present moment even during busy and stressful times. Taking five minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness can make a difference. Here are some different types of mindfulness practices (although the list goes on and on):
- Yin Yoga: A slow-paced type of yoga where poses are held for long period of times
- Qigong: A form of gentle exercise that focuses on repetition and slow movement
- Mindful Eating: Practicing the art of eating slowly without distraction
- Body Scan Meditation: Scanning the body to bring awareness to bodily sensations
- Loving-Kindness Meditation: a form of meditation that focuses on sending kindness and compassion towards others and self
Getting Started With Mindfulness
Take the FREE 7-Day Mindfulness Challenge! Click here to learn more and sign up for the challenge.
What does mindfulness look like to you?
Photography: Agostina DiMartino