You may have heard the term mindfulness on occasion. It is not something strange, since it is a concept that in recent years has achieved enormous popularity in the field of mental health. However, there are still many people who do not understand exactly what this practice consists of. To understand what mindfulness is all about, let’s start by looking at the word itself.
This English term could be translated as attention or full awareness, as “mind” means “mind” and “fulness” means “fullness”. Thus, people who practice mindfulness train their ability to focus fully on the present moment. In this article we are going to delve into what mindfulness is, what benefits it can bring to mental health and how it is possible to put it into practice in everyday life.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that finds its roots in meditation.. Thus, the objective it pursues is to train attention and awareness in the present moment. Although the exact definition of what mindfulness is varies depending on each author, we could say that putting it into practice allows one to be able to concentrate on the contents of the mind at all times from a judgment-free position.
Mindfulness finds its most remote origins in oriental meditation practices that were already carried out several millennia ago. However, it should be noted that meditation and mindfulness are not synonymous, since the former is a much broader or more heterogeneous area. Furthermore, meditation practices are closely linked to religion, while mindfulness lacks such connotations. From the current perspective, practicing mindfulness implies improving the management of attention and the physiological processes that accompany it.
The success of mindfulness is related to its effectiveness as a tool to combat anxiety, stress and worries that afflict a large part of the current population. For this reason, many mental health professionals resort to it in psychotherapeutic processes with their patients.
The definitive arrival of meditation in the Western world occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, schools of psychology began to use it as a useful technique in stress management. This would make it possible to shape what we now know as mindfulness. Since these beginnings, research on mindfulness has gained a lot of momentum, allowing many of its benefits to people’s health to be identified.
benefits of mindfulness
Next, we are going to discuss some of the benefits that can be derived from the practice of mindfulness.
1. Improves attention regulation
In everyday life it is common for our attention to try to reach everything, anticipate or focus on events that have already happened. However, mindfulness is of great help to improve the regulation of attention. This way, it is possible to stop acting on autopilot to, instead, focus only on what is most important at all times.
2. Increased emotional awareness
Mindfulness practice is also an excellent way to increase emotional awareness. With this, we stop anchoring ourselves in past emotions or focusing on possible future emotions. Thus, we can be more aware of what we are feeling in the present moment and, therefore, we learn to manage it.
3. Thought management
Mindfulness is also a great ally for learning to manage intrusive thoughts that make noise in our minds.. Many times, we get stuck in certain thoughts and enter a spiral of unproductive and exhausting rumination. Thanks to mindfulness, we can learn to let go of thoughts of this type and focus on what is really important in the present.
4. Study and concentration
Mindfulness can be a great ally if you are studying and need to improve your concentration. Thanks to this practice, it is possible that you learn to focus on the present activity (studying), limiting the interference of possible intrusive thoughts.
Although mindfulness does not have the main objective of achieving a state of relaxation, it can promote this state if the person manages to focus their attention on the present moment. Thus, those who suffer from problems such as anxiety can be especially benefited by putting mindfulness into practice. Many times, anxiety is related to excessive worry about the future. The person stops concentrating on the present moment and begins to develop intense anticipatory fear. Thus, training the focus on what happens here and now is of great help to reduce the pathological activation of the organism.
6. Improvement of interpersonal relationships
Putting mindfulness into practice can also be excellent for learning to manage stress and, therefore, engaging in our interpersonal relationships from a more serene and compassionate position. By improving understanding and emotional expression, we will be able to enjoy much more satisfying bonds with others.
How to practice Mindfulness in everyday life
Now that we have seen what mindfulness is and what benefits it can bring to our mental health, we are going to see some guidelines to put it into practice in our day to day.
1. Choose the place well
An essential requirement to practice Mindfulness is to choose the place for it well. It is crucial that you have a quiet space, free from distracting stimuli, such as noise or technology.. It is about that space not reminding you of all the duties and pressures that you find in your day, since the goal is to concentrate only on the present moment.
2. Adopt a proper posture
To put mindfulness into practice it is not necessary to make concrete and impossible postures. It is enough that you are comfortable and keep your back straight. Thus, you can let your muscles relax, since the tension will prevent you from concentrating well in the present moment.
3. Control your breathing
Breathing is another important point when doing mindfulness. It is key that you try to breathe slowly and deeply. This favors the relaxation of your body while you pay all your attention to the act of breathing itself, without thinking about anything else.
4. Focus on your bodily sensations
Practicing mindfulness helps to reconnect with one’s own body and the sensations that derive from it. Therefore, it is important that once you are in the right position and place, breathing deeply and slowly, you can focus on the small physical sensations that you experience. Try to focus for a few seconds on each of them. With this you will be able to divert your attention towards the stimulus of the present moment, without diverting towards other worries or intrusive thoughts that increase your stress levels..
5. Focus on your most abstract mental contents
Once you’ve managed to focus on those bodily stimuli, it’s time to turn your attention to the more abstract contents of your mind. Try to see your thoughts from a certain distance, without merging with them. It tries to take the perspective of an outside observer who is non-judgmental and merely describes an objective reality. This point is central in the exercise of mindfulness, as it helps you accept your thoughts without trying to fight them or fight against them (which favors them appearing over and over again).
6. End again with a deep breath
Once you have accomplished the previous step, it is important that you can end the exercise with a deep, slow breath that leaves you relaxed and calm.
In this article we have talked about the practice of mindfulness, its benefits and the essential steps to implement it in our day to day. The truth is that in recent years there has been a lot of talk about mindfulness, a term that has reached great levels of popularity in the field of mental health.
The most remote origins of mindfulness are found in Eastern meditation, an ancient practice that began to become Western in the 1960s and 1970s.. Progressively, this has been adapting to the needs of the people until configuring what we know today as mindfulness. The truth is that meditation differs from this practice in that it has certain philosophical and religious connotations, not to mention that it is much broader and more heterogeneous.
Mindfulness aims to help people train their ability to focus attention on the present moment. Many times, the stress and the pace of everyday life make us live on automatic pilot, always thinking about the future or dwelling on the past. Starting to become aware of each moment can be of great help to achieve greater acceptance of our thoughts, better understand our emotions and live from a calmer and more compassionate position.
Putting mindfulness into practice is easier than it may seem, since it is enough to have adequate space, know how to adopt a good posture, breathe slowly and concentrate on our physical sensations. Once this is done, we must try to observe our mental contents as an external observer who does not judge.