This was such a popular post I wanted to share it again for those who missed it.
If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or just plain down in the dumps, mindfulness may be a good option for you. It is an ancient practice that has been shown to reduce stress and promote well-being.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as purposely focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
This should not be confused with meditation; mindfulness is merely a way to become more aware of yourself and your surroundings. By practicing mindfulness regularly, you will eventually find yourself carrying these habits into everyday activities such as cooking, listening to music, and even cleaning.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Observe your surroundings without judgment
Without judgment simply means that you aren’t judging whether or not something is good or bad; you are merely observing what is there.
Accepting thoughts without judging them trains the brain not to react emotionally to thoughts that previously would have caused upset or distraction. This allows you to break free from automatic reactions that are no longer useful, freeing up previously used energy for unnecessary thought processes.
In addition, mindfulness helps you to learn how to get out of “mental traps” by giving you the distance between stimulus and response instead of the immediacy that has been ingrained in people from years of conditioning.
The practice of mindfulness encourages you to observe your thoughts and emotions as they present themselves without judgment and with a desire to improve. This differs from people’s method of ruminating or worrying because those two behaviors can become cyclical and lead to habitual patterns that cause stress, anxiety, and depression.
When practicing mindfulness, you are taking up your rightful position as an observer that has control over your brain function rather than being your brain function.
When you allow stressful thoughts and feelings to exist without judging them as good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, productive or unproductive, they tend to dissipate more easily on their own, so you can resume thinking about what’s most important right now.
Accept your feelings and bodily sensations
Remember: These feelings might be uncomfortable, but they are there. Accept that you are feeling what you are feeling without trying to change it or push it away.
Even though mindfulness helps a person regulate their emotions better by creating more distance between stimulus and response, it is helpful not to ignore emotions that arise but rather to allow them to exist without necessarily reacting.
Being watchful of your surroundings can help you learn how best to respond in a given situation while taking into consideration any impulses that may accompany emotional responses. One way this might manifest itself is through a greater focus on rationality rather than emotionality when making decisions.
So as not to fall prey to gut instincts or instinctual urges from past conditioning, which have been proven over time by scientific research not always lead down the most optimal paths for positive outcomes.
It is important not to let thoughts turn into action without first evaluating their consequences carefully. The goal should be to empower oneself by changing behaviors that don’t align with core values while turning down the volume on less helpful impulsivity.
Practicing mindfulness can help to reduce poor decision-making (such as excessive “night owl” behavior that stops the body from getting enough sleep) and increase emotional regulation when tempted with harmful or unhealthy impulses such as drugs, alcohol, and excessive buying.
Mindfulness is a great way to maintain control over your life and make sure temporary feelings and emotions do not rule you in response to external stimuli.
Be in the present moment
Training the brain to be present in the present moment instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future allows for a fuller life experience free from excessive stress, anxiety, and negative emotions.
Mindfulness not only helps you become more aware, but it also provides an opportunity for gratitude and appreciation when you take time to enjoy everyday experiences.
In this way, mindfulness may affect higher-order brain functions such as emotional regulation and empathy through changes in daily thought patterns that influence a person’s interactions with others.
Mindfulness allows you to make a shift from autopilot mode to manual control of your life. You can let go of unnecessary stress and anxiety while feeling calmer, more centered, and grounded in who you are as an individual rather than being swept away by uncontrolled thoughts and feelings that cloud your judgment or lead to reactionary behavior.
By practicing mindfulness, you can take back the reins of your mind so that you may direct them toward activities that feel fulfilling and purposeful instead of engaging in unproductive psychological loops that cause regret.
This brings you back into the moment where mindfulness becomes easier because your mind is calmer and quieter than before. Although it is normal for emotions like anger to arise occasionally (and sometimes often), reacting impulsively generally does not lead people toward healthy long-term outcomes.
How Long Should One Practice Mindfulness?
By practicing mindfulness regularly for fifteen minutes each day, people can train themselves through daily self-monitoring to become more conscious of what they’re feeling at any given moment.
This may be challenging at first because it requires you to turn off autopilot mode and be conscious of every choice you make instead of just letting life happen. However, it will become easier to be aware of your thoughts and feelings throughout the day with time.
You will notice that once you begin practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, you will feel calmer throughout the day by simply observing what’s going on around you without reacting emotionally.
You’ll find yourself more grounded at the moment instead of feeling stressed out about things left unresolved in the past or hazy uncertainties floating around in the future. You may even begin to see that some of your previously unproductive thought patterns are associated with certain people, places, or events that you had assumed were beyond your control.
How Do One Get Better At Being Mindful?
Being mindful isn’t something that you are born knowing how to do or not know how to do; it’s about practicing these three steps until they become second nature.
Mindfulness has various benefits for both physical and mental health.
The Benefits Of Mindfulness
Reduce Depression and Anxiety
Studies have shown that it can reduce blood pressure, improve immune function, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, enhance emotional processing after a stressful event occurs, increase focus on tasks at hand rather than worrying about past experiences or future concerns.
Helps To Remain In The Moment
Mindfulness practices help individuals reduce their emotional reactivity to unpleasant life experiences and allows them to live in the present moment instead of stewing about things that have already happened or are likely to happen in the future.
A study conducted with college students showed that practicing mindfulness led to better academic performance by increasing focus on coursework rather than worrying about grades or other external pressures that students may feel will determine how smart they are compared to others.
Helps To Remain In Control
Mindfulness is important for healthy individuals because they can use it as a coping mechanism in times of anxiety, stress, and sadness when they feel out of control.
Mindfulness Is For Everyone, But Might Not Be
Although mindfulness has these physical health benefits, it is important for people without any mental health problems to understand what types of situations would make them better candidates for mindfulness practices.
People In Stressful Environments
Those with mental health disorders or even normal individuals in high-stress situations may benefit the most from mindfulness exercises to help them cope with these intense life pressures.
People In The Opposite Position
Although there are many benefits of mindfulness meditation, it is not necessary to practice this technique if a person does not feel like they need strategies to alleviate stress in their lives. For example, if someone’s job was not stressful but chose to practice mindfulness techniques anyway, that person would likely experience no benefits.
This is a collaborative post.