What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the capacity to be fully present in the moment. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.
You may ask yourself: “If I am not in the present moment, where am I?” The answer is probably in the past or in the future.
You may have had the experience of having a drink with some friends, and they are speaking and speaking, then suddenly one of them asks: “And what do you think?” Oops. You realize that you were not listening to the conversation. You were there but your mind was in another place: in worries that you may have, in memories, or perhaps you were thinking about what you are going to have for dinner tonight. This is one example. But there could be more. For instance, on those nights when you can’t sleep because you are unable to disconnect from your worries, your projects or your sorrows; or during those times when you are preparing for an exam, an essay, or you have a deadline at work, thoughts on these occasions have the tendency to follow you all day and night, increasing your levels of stress, and, in some cases, reducing your capabilities.
Throughout our day we do things inattentively. What happens is that our attention becomes lost in our thoughts or in overwhelmed emotions. This lack of awareness in our life has an impact on our physical and mental health, which means, a loss in wellness and capability.
How Mindfulness Can Help You?
Practicing to improve our Mindfulness capacity has many benefits. Here is a list of the most relevant:
- Understand our Emotional Pain (anxiety, sadness, anger…)
- Reduce Stress and Improve our Physical Health
- Improve our Connection with Ourselves and with Others
- Improve our Cognitive Capacities, such as concentration, focus, memory
- Reduce Mental Chatter
- Increase our Creativity
These benefits have repercussions at three levels: personal, professional and interpersonal.
- Personal Level: When we understand our emotional pain, this helps us to avoid the time when a moment of sadness could become a depression, or that a moment of anxiety could become a panic attack. Also, Mindfulness helps us to reduce our stress and therefore to improve our physical health.
- Professional Level: Being focussed and able to concentrate on what we are doing, makes us more efficient, productive and helps us to reduce mistakes. This will translate into stronger professional and academic achievements.
- Interpersonal Level: Mindfulness helps us to improve our connection with the others and to enrich our relationships. Mindfulness boosts our empathy. Also, Mindfulness reduces our tendencies for aggressive or passive communication, allowing a more assertive and compassionate way in our relations.
How to Practice Mindfulness?
We can train our mind to improve its capacities. Mindfulness is one of them, in the same way that attention, memory and concentration are also capacities.
We can improve our mindfulness capacity through a series of meditation practices, focussed attention exercises and attitudinal development training.
As we are trying to achieve and improve our mental ability, what we need is constant training and building a practice’s routine.
Imagine that rather than speak about the mind, we are speaking about our body and the training our physical capacity because we would like to compete in a tennis championship in the next months. Then think about these questions: Do you think that you will learn to play tennis if the only thing you do is speak about it but you don’t take up the racket and practice? How much do you think your tennis game will improve if you don’t have a practice routine? Would it be useful for you to have a trainer who can help you to improve your game and to establish a routine? Do you think that if you want to have a good result in the championship, it is important to be motivated and to trust in yourself?
All these questions and reflections are applicable to our mindfulness training. Our brain is a muscle that we are going to shape session by session. We need to build a routine and concentrate in the mindfulness practices; we need to be motivated and trust in ourselves, in our own wisdom and inner kindness.