Mindfulness essentially means moment-to-moment awareness. Although it originated in the Buddhist tradition, you don’t have to be Buddhist to reap its benefits. This description explains the basic philosophy:
When you are mindful…You become keenly aware of yourself and your surroundings, but you simply observe these things as they are. You are aware of your own thoughts and feelings, but you do not react to them in the way that you would if you were on “autopilot”. By not labeling or judging the events and circumstances taking place around you, you are freed from your normal tendency to react to them.
Many people immediately associate mindfulness with insight meditation, which starts by focusing on the breath. In, out. In, out. When your mind wanders, notice where it goes (e.g., to-do list, a distressing conversation, etc.) and then bring your attention back to your breath. You don't resist your mind’s natural urge to wander, but train it to return to the present. By settling into your body and noticing how it feels, you center yourself in the moment you’re living, too.
Other Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness includes a broad spectrum of informal activities in addition to meditation. Here are a few simple techniques that you can incorporate every day, even at work:
- Spend at least 5 minutes each day doing nothing - just being
- Get in touch with your senses by noticing the temperature of your skin and background sounds around you
- Pay attention to your walking by slowing your pace and feeling the ground against your feet
Mindfulness enhances emotional intelligence, notably self-awareness and the capacity to manage distressing emotions. It also delivers these measurable benefits:
- Reduced stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved memory
- Less anxiety