The Benefits of Mindfulness

Although there are many definitions, mindfulness can be described as the awareness that emerges through paying attention in the present moment. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of focusing on external events as they appear, mindfulness means living in the moment and focusing on your inner world. Mindfulness has its origins in the Buddhist tradition, through Eastern practices of meditation. It is not meditation however, since the goal is to have an increased awareness of the present moment, not to achieve a higher state of consciousness. Mindfulness does not conflict with any beliefs or tradition, religious, cultural or scientific.  It is simply a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, and smells - anything we might not normally notice.

The goal of mindfulness is to:

  • Enhance coping skills, resilience, and self-regulation.
  • Support self appreciation, esteem and confidence.
  • Increase social, emotional and interpersonal strength.

Research has shown that the practice of mindfulness has been beneficial for reasons as diverse as:

  • Stress in school, family or financial
  • Chronic pain and illness
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Medical disorders
  • Sleep disturbances
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Behavioral problems
  • Increased productivity

One of the nice features of mindfulness is that you can learn it on your own through books, tapes, videos or there are many Apps. You can also take a class to help get you started or to keep you going. It does have to be expensive but you have to invest time in the beginning stages. Most people find when they get comfortable with the techniques do it effortlessly and utilize it during any point in their day.

Elizabeth Scott the author of “8 Keys to Stress Management,” describes the following 5 mindfulness exercises that are simple and convenient to do:

Mindfulness Exercise #1: Meditation

Meditation brings many benefits in its own right, and has been one of the most popular and traditional ways to achieve mindfulness for centuries, so it tops the list of mindfulness exercises. Meditation becomes easier with practice, but it need not be difficult for beginners. Simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and quiet your mind.

Mindfulness Exercise #2: Deep Breathing

That’s right: mindfulness can be as simple as breathing! Seriously, though, one of the most simple ways to experience mindfulness, which can be done as you go about your daily activities (convenient for those who feel they don’t have time to meditate), is to focus on your breathing. Breathe from your belly rather than from your chest, and try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focusing on the sound and rhythm of your breath, especially when you’re upset, can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment.

Mindfulness Exercise #3: Listening to Music

Listening to music has many benefits — so many, in fact, that music is being used therapeutically in a new branch of complementary medicine known as music therapy. That’s part of why listening to music makes a great mindfulness exercise. You can play soothing new-age music, classical music, or another type of slow-tempo music to feel calming effects, and make it an exercise in mindfulness by really focusing on the sound and vibration of each note, the feelings that the music brings up within you, and other sensations that are happening "right now" as you listen. If other thoughts creep into your head, congratulate yourself for noticing, and gently bring your attention back to the current moment and the music you are hearing.

Mindfulness Exercise #4: Cleaning House

The term "cleaning house" has a literal meaning (cleaning up your actual house) as well as a figurative one (getting rid of "emotional baggage," letting go of things that no longer serve you), and both can be great stress relievers! Because clutter has several hidden costs and can be a subtle but significant stressor, cleaning house and de-cluttering as a mindfulness exercise can bring lasting benefits. To bring mindfulness to cleaning, you first need to view it as a positive event, an exercise in self-understanding and stress relief, rather than simply as a chore. Then, as you clean, focus on what you are doing as you are doing it — and nothing else. Feel the warm, soapy water on your hands as you wash dishes; experience the vibrations of the vacuum cleaner as you cover the area of the floor; enjoy the warmth of the laundry as you fold it; feel the freedom of letting go of unneeded objects as you put them in the donations bag. It may sound a little silly as you read it here, but if you approach cleaning as an exercise in mindfulness, it can become one. (I also recommend adding music to the equation.)

Mindfulness Exercise #5: Observing Your Thoughts

Many stressed and busy people find it difficult to stop focusing on the rapid stream of thoughts running through their mind, and the idea of sitting in meditation and holding off the onslaught of thought can actually cause more stress! If this sounds like you, the mindfulness exercise of observing your thoughts might be for you. Rather than working against the voice in your head, you sit back and "observe" your thoughts, rather than becoming involved in them. As you observe them, you might find your mind quieting, and the thoughts becoming less stressful. (If not, you may benefit from journaling as a way of processing all those thoughts so you can decrease their intensity and try again.