Mindfulness has been an increasingly popular topic of research and is incorporated in many of the “third-wave” cognitive-behavioral therapies. There are both mental and physical benefits to mindfulness (including happiness), which I will describe in the following posts. Today’s post will focus on what mindfulness is and give you a primer on how to start your mindfulness practice.
So what exactly is mindfulness? There are a few different definitions:
- “Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.” (Marlatt & Kristeller)
- “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn).
- “Consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest and receptiveness.” (Russ Harris, 2007)
Simply put, there are three basic steps to mindfulness.
An important point to remember about mindfulness is that you take a non-judgmental approach to it. I’ve heard a lot of people say things like, “I can’t do it right,” “My thoughts are still there,” or “I keep getting distracted.” That’s okay!! The key to mindfulness is noticing, paying particular attention to your experience. If you’re noticing that you’re getting distracted- you’re being mindful! If you notice that you’re having XYZ thoughts- you’re being mindful! Especially for beginners, this is exactly what being mindful is all about: learning to slow down and just notice your experiences.
When you feel more comfortable with doing the more “basic” mindfulness exercises, you can start doing specific mindfulness meditative practices that guide you in letting thoughts go, breathing into your experiences, or focusing on the breath, and so forth. I’ve listed some resources below. Next time, I’ll focus on the benefits of mindfulness and exercise and physical health.
I’ve personally found mindfulness to be helpful in my life. While I can’t scientifically prove it, I like to think that my mindfulness practice helped me to control my blood pressure (along with other stress-reduction and diet changes, of courses). After mindfulness meditation practices, I feel invigorated, more awake, and refreshed. It also has helped my to improve my running, as I’ve been more mindful about my breath and my running form.
Have you practiced mindfulness before? How has it been helpful?
Guided Mindfulness Exercises
- UCSD Center for Mindfulness, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction
- UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
- Insight Meditation Center
- Guided Self-Compassion Meditation
- Mindful Self-Compassion
- Could Mindful Meditation be Right For You? (atlantablackstar.com)