When you start studying meditation you will hear the terms “mindfulness” and “mindfulness practice.”
But what is mindfulness practice?
Definition of Mindfulness
There are several definitions of mindfulness but probably the most popular one is by Jon Kabat Zinn. Jon introduced mindfulness to western medicine with Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat Zinn, is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
What you are paying attention to during your mindfulness practice may be your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. They may also be what you sense in your environment like what you see, what you hear, what you smell or the temperature.
Mindfulness can also be used for paying attention to activities like eating, walking, talking to your loved one or performing a task at work.
Whatever you are paying attention to during mindfulness practice you do it non judgmentally. You see the details you are paying attention to as they are without judgments. If judgmental thoughts pop up during the mindfulness practice, you observe them non judgmentally as well.
During the practice you also do your best to stay in the present. When you practice, your attention will be drawn to thoughts about the past and the future. You notice these thoughts and bring back your attention to the present and continue with your practice.
Myths About Mindfulness
There are some misconceptions about what mindfulness is.
1. Meditation is Mindfulness.
Meditation is a practice that allows you to reach the state of mindfulness. There are other methods that will allow you to practice mindfulness other than meditation like Yoga. I will describe them later in this article.
2. Mindfulness is a religion or requires the belief in a religion.
Many people make the mistake that to practice mindfulness, you have to be a Buddhist.
Majority of the mindfulness practices being done right now came from Buddhism but mindfulness practices can also be found in other religions. Similar practices are found in Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others.
Although mindfulness practices are part of religious ceremonies, practicing mindfulness
3. Mindfulness is a way to get rid of negative thoughts and emotions.
When you practice mindfulness you will tend to notice the physical sensations associated with joy and happiness more. With some practices you also increase feelings of gratitude and compassion.
But mindfulness is not a way to feel good forever. That’s impossible. It’s normal to feel ‘negative’ thoughts and emotions sometimes.
When uncomfortable thoughts and feelings come up you notice them as they are without judgment. When you do this it tends to have a distancing effect on them so you don’t get caught up by them. These thoughts and feelings then change and morph easily to something else because you are not in a struggle to try to get rid of them.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Years of research have shown the benefits of mindfulness. The following are the most common ones:
1. Mindfulness helps us distance ourselves from our unhelpful thoughts
With mindfulness, you will improve your ability to notice your mind’s non-stop inner chatter. You’ll also notice the continuous flow of mental images.
When the thoughts that come up do not help us, we can just merely observe them without getting hooked by them. We can then let them go more easily.
2. Mindfulness helps us accept uncomfortable feelings and sensations.
With mindfulness practice, you are able to perceive feelings and sensations as merely sensations that you are having in your body. Whether these feelings are sadness, anxiety or anger you just observe them as they are without acting on them.
3. Mindfulness helps us break bad habits.
By continuously observing your thoughts, feelings and urges when they come up, you end up not taking them seriously. When the time comes and the trigger for your bad habit comes up, you are able to notice your urges, thoughts and emotions without letting them pull you to perform the bad habit.
4. Mindfulness increases focus.
Mindfulness has been used in helping improve focus. Mindfulness meditation is usually used for this aim.
During meditation, you pay attention to something, like your breath. When you get distracted, you place your attention back to your subject of focus. When practiced frequently, this improves focus.
Kinds of Mindfulness Practices
There are a lot of mindfulness practices to choose from but the following are the most common.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
As I mentioned, it’s a type of meditation where you pay attention to something and go back to it when you get distracted. You can learn about different types of meditation practices in my post Easy Meditation Exercises.
2. Mindful Eating
With mindful eating, you use your senses to perceive your food and notice the act of eating.
The most common practice is the “Raisin Exercise” although you can use this with any food you want.
During this exercise, you slowly notice how the raisin looks like, how it smells like, how it feels like when you hold it and finally, how it tastes like when you eat it.
When people practice this, they usually notice something that they haven’t noticed before. They also appreciate the food better.
3. Mindful Walking
When you walk mindfully, you walk slowly and carefully notice the sensation of walking. You notice the sensations you feel on your feet, the feeling of your arms swinging and other sensations you feel in your body.
In some versions of mindful walking, you notice your surroundings and even feelings as you walk.
Practicing Mindfulness is Good For you
Try practicing mindfulness now and see the benefits.
If you want to start practicing it, I suggest you start doing any of the exercises above. I specially recommend mindfulness meditation, although you can start with the other mindfulness practices if you feel more comfortable doing them.
I hope you found something useful in this post.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reply below.