Mindfulness has been a buzzword, and the practice of mindfulness has been in the American mainstream in recent years. The emergence of mindfulness in the West was attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Being a scientist and a meditator, Kabat-Zinn discovered that people often tried to avoid pain, but that avoidance actually would lead to deeper distress. He founded the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School in 1979 and engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. On this blog, let’s dive in and explore what mindfulness is, its benefits and what you can do to be mindful in your day-to-day life.

What is Mindfulness?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness has been described as “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” In other words, mindfulness includes both awareness and acceptance; being aware of outward experience and inner state in the present moment and accepting them without judgment or avoidance. In a short sentence, mindfulness is being in the moment.

What are the benefits of Mindfulness?

  • Reduce stress and anxiety

Being in the moment helps you assess, understand and cope with your stress and emotion, which further allows you to gain control, reduce burnout and feel more relaxed.

  • Improve focus

When you constantly jump from task to task, both the quality and quantity of your effort may suffer over time. Coming back to the present moment not only trains you to be more focused but also keep you from reacting all the time.

  • Enhance cognitive flexibility

A study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging in 2011 reported the result that mindfulness-based practice is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

  • Strengthen relationship

When your stress level is lower and you are able to focus on the present moment, you become more self-aware, attentive and compassionate. Furthermore, you benefit from the enhanced relationship both at work and in life.

  • Increase overall physical and mental health

According to MARC at UCLA, mindfulness has identified a wide range of benefits in both psychological and physical health. It helps to reduce anxiety, depression, rumination and emotional reactivity, as well as increase well-being and concentration. For physical health, mindfulness improves immune system function, quality of sleep and decreasing blood pressure.

How to be more mindful?

  • Pause and focus on the moment

Take a momentary pause and pay attention to things around you, your own feelings and thoughts. Instead of regretting the past or worrying about the unknown future, just focus on what is happening right in front of you; your physical condition, thoughts and emotions, without assumption or judgment.

  • Breathe with intent

Breathing better and more deeply can improve your overall health and is the easiest exercise to practice mindfulness. You can practice it in almost any context and without being noticed. Breathe in for five seconds and breathe out for five seconds. It’s super helpful especially when I have trouble falling asleep at night.

  • Engage in mindfulness activities

There are several other activities that can help you stay in the moment and ease anxiety. “It is important to find something that works for you,” said Dr. Sukol.

  • Journaling

  • Doodling

  • Taking breaks from social media

  • Getting a massage

  • Doing yoga

  • If you are a nature lover, you can walk/hike in the nature, go fishing, watching sunrise or sunset, or go camping

  • Practice

Whether it’s breathing exercise or an activity you choose to do, it is important to find ways to integrate your practice into your life. It may be uncomfortable or unnatural in the beginning, but you will benefit from putting your consistent efforts in practice.

Who can benefit from mindfulness?

Whether you are a business owner, career professional or student, you can benefit from mindfulness. A study from Michigan State University suggests that mindful meditation helps people make fewer errors. A research done by MARC at UCLA showed improved communication and work performance in companies, while in the educational settings, mindfulness practices improved social-emotional skills and decreased test stress in students, as well as reduced stress and burnout in teachers. No wonder companies, like Google and General Mills, and different educational institutions have started teaching mindfulness.

Do you have the tendency to spend your time dwelling in the past or worrying about the future? If so, you are most likely missing your life at the present. Get started with the mindfulness activities! If you find living in the present challenging and would like to learn how to live mindfully, contact me to find out how coaching can help!