Origin of mindfulness
Mindfulness originates from ancient meditation practices. It is based on Buddhist tradition, and it has been practised for more than thousands of years. Mindfulness can be traced back to many cultures, including Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism and Judaism.
Over the last 40 years, Western psychology has started to recognise the many positive benefits of mindfulness training. Today, Mindfulness is used to treat a wide range of clinical disorders. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are the two main approaches developed in recent years.
What is Mindfulness?
The mind has a life on its own and is always looking for ways to escape from the present. It has a natural tendency to either be thinking forward or reflecting and ruminating about the past be it thinking of past events; daydreaming, planning or fantasising about something in the future; anticipating and worrying about future events or solving problems that may or may not arise in the future.
When you are fully awake in your life, you cannot dwell on the past, nor feel anxious or worried about the future.
When you are mindful, you are actively involved in what you are doing with all your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander. Being aware of what is happening mentally, emotionally and physically in each given moment gives you the skill to choose how to respond. When you choose to respond rather than react, you feel much more empowered and in control of your life.
Observing and accepting your thoughts
Mindfulness does not mean we should stop thinking. In Buddhism, the mind is considered the sixth sense. Just like your eyes see, your nose smells, your ears hear, your tongue tastes, and your body feels, your mind thinks. So, it is normal to have thoughts. It is a sign that your mind is healthy and doing what it is supposed to do: think.
Just as you cannot stop your eyes from seeing, you cannot stop the mind from thinking.
Mindfulness is the skill of knowing what is going on in your mind at any given moment without getting carried away by it. Russ Harris
So, in essence, Mindfulness is about observing and accepting the thoughts for exactly what they are: thoughts. When you become skilled at observing the content of your thoughts, you begin to realise that your thoughts do not control you, and they do not define you, they simply are.
To build any habits, skills or pattern in your lives, you need to practice. If you want to learn to play an instrument or learn to speak a foreign language - unless you were born super gifted - you will have to practice. There is no other way.
Just like any habit or pattern or skill we want to form in our lives, mindfulness is a skill. It is something that we have to practice daily. And the importance of mindfulness can only be seen in the results that it brings.
Building up the Mindfulness muscle
A mindful practice simply means that you purposely set aside time to engage in mindfulness activities or meditation exercises. You use that time to condition your ability to keep your mind and your thoughts in the present moment. That specific time is dedicated purposely to build up your mindfulness muscles.
The purpose of developing your Mindfulness muscles is for you to become an expert in observing your thoughts in a calm and detached manner. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to disassociate from them and let go of anything that does not serve you.
It is a daily practice…
Like anything that you want to learn, if you start with three or four days and then give up, well guess what, you are not going to get the benefit from it after those three or four days. Mindfulness takes time to be embedded in your system.
I recommend practising Mindfulness every day for about 3-6 months. I guarantee you that over time it will become effortless to you.
The benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness has been studied for many years, and according to the outcomes of much research, practising mindfulness has been proven to have several benefits for physical and mental health.
Practising Mindfulness can help you with:
Improving mental health and wellbeing - How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies
Boosting your immune system - Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation
Reducing overeating and obesity - Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Obesity-Related Eating Behaviors: A Literature Review
You can practice mindfulness in two ways: formal and informal
The formal practice is your meditation practice. It means to set aside a specific amount of time to meditate quietly. Formal mindfulness practices include:
. mindfulness of breathing
. loving-kindness meditation
. body scan
. mindful eating
. mindful movement
. sound awareness
. seated awareness
. mindful walking
The informal mindfulness practice can be applied to any activity throughout the day. Informal Mindfulness practices can be being fully present while brushing your teeth, getting dressed, making your bed, making yourself a cup of coffee, preparing your lunch, washing your hands, exercising, driving, doing your food shopping, listening to someone, or replying to your emails. As you can see, the possibilities are endless.
Get in touch with me if you wish to learn more about how Mindfulness can benefit your health and life.