What is Mindfulness?


Paridhi Laddha

Psychology Associate

Today let’s discuss a simple but powerful concept that has transformed millions of lives across the globe.

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. It is a way of living consciously and intentionally.

By being mindful, we begin to notice everything: our thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells - anything we might not normally notice. The actual tasks involving mindfulness might be simple, but because it is so different from how our minds normally behave in today’s world of unlimited distractions, it takes a lot of practice.

Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we don't normally notice, because our heads are too busy in the future or in the past - thinking about what we need to do, or going over what we have done. Being mindful helps us to train our attention. Our minds wander more than 50% of the time, but every time we practice being mindful, we are exercising our attention ‘muscle’ and become mentally fitter.

Mindfulness might simply be described as choosing and learning to control our focus of attention. Instead of our mind going in a 100 different directions without our permission, we choose to direct it to a place we want, intentionally.

We might go out into the garden and as we look around, we might think: ‘That grass really needs cutting, and that vegetable patch looks very untidy’. A young child, on the other hand, will call over excitedly, ‘Hey - come and look at this ant!’ This is what we need to learn - to be excited and open to little things by letting go of all our worries. Some benefits of mindfulness are, enhancement of our ability to deal with everyday struggles, decreased stress, healthier life, etc.

If you’re wondering what you can get out of being mindful, read on to learn about all the great things mindfulness can do for you!

1. Facilitation of recovery

Mindfulness can not only help us deal with a chronic or potentially terminal illness, it can also help recover from it in some scenarios. Perhaps one of the most studied groups in terms of the impacts of mindfulness is cancer patients. Mindfulness may not take away the symptoms, but it can help make them more manageable. Multiple clinical trials across the globe have shown immense benefits to cancer patients’ mental health.

2. Decreased depressive symptoms

Mindfulness has long been considered an effective supplemental treatment for depression. It has been found to decrease depressive symptoms, anxiety, and stress in college students, as well as increasing self-compassion. One of the ways in which mindfulness can help treat depression is through enhancing practitioners’ ability to regulate their emotions. Mindfulness provides the tools needed to step back from intense negative emotions, identify them, and accept them instead of fighting them. This allows mindful thinkers to better regulate emotions, leading to better coping and management of depression. Mindfulness is even effective for people dealing with the most critical of depressive symptoms: suicidal ideation, or thoughts of suicide. In chronically depressed participants with suicidal thoughts, mindfulness has been seen to be extremely effective in reducing these thoughts.

3. Improved general health

Beyond the many mental health benefits of mindfulness, it also helps improve general health. For example, a study of how the two facets of mindfulness impact health behaviors found that practicing mindfulness can enhance or increase multiple behaviors related to health, like getting regular health check-ups, being physically active, using seat belts, and avoiding nicotine and alcohol. Another study on mindfulness and health showed that mindfulness is related to improved cardiovascular health through a lower incidence of smoking, more physical activity, and a healthier body mass index. Additionally, mindfulness has been positively linked with lower blood pressure, especially when the practitioner is skilled in non-judging and connectivity.

4. Weight reduction

Overweight and obese practitioners of mindfulness can also take advantage of the health benefits mindfulness has to offer. In a study on the impacts of mindfulness on the psychological and physical health of obese or overweight adults, researchers found that mindfulness helped participants lose weight, improve the eating behaviors and attitudes, and decrease depression and anxiety.

The Importance of Consistent Practice

While everyone has something to gain from practicing mindfulness, there is one caveat: to reap the maximum benefits of mindfulness, it truly needs to be a practice, meaning that it must occur regularly and often.

Nearly all of the studies mentioned above in the sections on the benefits of mindfulness are based on the practice of mindfulness over a period of 5-8 weeks or more. Even a brief, 10-minute daily practice can result in more efficient cognition and better self-regulation.

Another study on the effects of a 10-minute mindfulness exercise showed that even just a few minutes of mindfulness practice can lead to better executive attention and recognition memory, leading to better performance on a simple task.

No wonder mindfulness has taken the world by storm!

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Rohit Chopra
Mindfulness is a unique way of conscious living with focus on one's thoughts and actions. An intentional way of living 😍