What Is the Practice of Mindfulness?

man sitting on dock meditating on scenery of a river flowing through a gap in mountains

The practice of mindfulness provides us a way to pay attention and see what is happening in our lives. It doesn’t eradicate the pressures of life; it merely allows us to deal with them calmly.

How do you know if you’re being mindful or mindless? Think about it!

  • Have you ever arrived at a destination and wondered how you actually got there? OR
  • Have you absentmindedly eaten an entire bar of chocolate and sat with an empty wrapper in your hand, wondering where it went?

There are many such scenarios. If you experienced one, you are not alone. I’ve done it, too! So have the majority of us.

We just let autopilot take over and go about our day mindlessly. We are a world of multi-taskers, and because of that, it is easy to lose focus on the moment that we are in presently. We’re lost in a juggling act of home, work, and finances.

As humans, we’re often not present in our own lives. So it’s easy to miss the good things that happen to us and concentrate on the things that poison us. Self-criticism is all too easy when we allow our minds wander. And the human mind loves to wander.

We are easily distracted and have a habit of examining events that occurred in the past, often negatively, while anticipating the future.

Who Can Benefit from the Practice of Mindfulness?

The answer to this question is a bit of a no-brainer! Everyone can benefit from the practice of mindfulness! For example:

  • If you are someone who rushes frantically from place to place, is always on the go, has a never-ending to-do list, and is prone to high anxiety, then you can benefit from the practice of mindfulness.
  • If you are a corporate executive working 12-hour days, with meetings and responsibilities, and you are really burnt out but you keep on going, to the point where actually, you are a bit of a workaholic and your family life is beginning to suffer, then you can benefit from the practice of mindfulness.
  • If you are a busy stay-at-home mom, or a working single mom, or a married and working single mom, you can definitely benefit from the practice of mindfulness.

CEO’s, students, retirees and really anyone can also benefit from learning and practicing mindfulness.

Anyone can practice mindfulness! It doesn’t matter how old you are, what your physical ability is, if you’re religious or not… There are no barriers. No matter what your role in life, or what your circumstances, you can definitely benefit from being mindful.

Even if you have it all, feel happy and content, and have a wonderful partner, children, and everything the way you want it, YOU can still benefit from practicing mindfulness!

It can change your life, but it doesn’t require you to change who you are.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient practice that emphasizes:

  • Being aware of each moment as it passes;
  • Keeping focused on the present;
  • Reducing out-of-control thinking that keeps you stuck in the past;
  • Ruminating over and over about the way things were or perpetually mulling over the future; or
  • Worried and anxious about possible scenarios that haven’t happened yet.

Essentially, practicing mindfulness helps us to become more “present” in our lives, more present to what is actually happening right now, rather than being fixated on fantasies, dreams, or obsessions.

By staying in the present moment, our lives become more real. We begin to live more authentically.

The upshot is that we have a more positive, richer, and deeper experience of life – all the exquisite beauty that life has to offer. This leads to feelings of contentment and inner peace, and helps us connect better with others around us, thus improving our relationships!

Seriously, Everybody Needs to Practice Mindfulness!

What happens when we practice mindfulness is:

  • We become more aware of the present moment,
  • Our mind loosens its tight grip on its fear-based preoccupations,
  • Then our brain sends a message to the parasympathetic nervous system that all is well, and
  • We become calm so that relaxation can ensue.

It’s easy to do! You don’t need to purchase any special equipment, and just about anyone can do it.


In case you’re wondering about the parasympathetic nervous system versus the sympathetic nervous system, they’re the opposites of each other.

  • The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for intense physical activity and is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. You’re in a constant state of activity, sometimes frenzied.
  • On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system has almost the exact opposite effect. It relaxes the body and inhibits or slows many high-energy functions. When relaxed, you’re better able to focus.

How Can You Start to Practice Mindfulness?

The easiest way to get started is to become aware of your breathing:

  • Breathe in. Notice the act of breathing in. Feel the cold air coming in through your nostrils.
  • Breathe out. Notice the warmer air as it leaves the body through your nostrils.
  • Become aware of other bodily sensations as you do this.
  • Do not judge the process or yourself.
  • Just observe and notice what happens when you do this.

It is so simple to learn how to do this that even children can do it. Actually, more and more schools are offering mindfulness training to children to help them relax and focus. Afterward, they give more and better attention to the lessons being taught and thus improve their ability to learn.

It is especially useful if you have been diagnosed with ADHD or if you have autism, bipolar disorder, or any other diagnosis of mental illness. It is helpful if you are suffering from chronic pain, from stress, anxiety, depression, or serious physical disease, for instance, cancer.

Mindfulness can keep your thoughts off your problems, stressors, and pains. It keeps you living a life of fullness, even when faced with adversity.

When practicing mindfulness, you will begin to recognize the physiological and unconscious emotional reactions that you have to everyday events. You will be present in the moment, whether at work, at home, or at play.

You will be present at every activity in your daily life. And when you are truly present in your life, then you can improve your overall health and wellbeing.

Origin of the “Mindfulness” Trend

“Mindfulness” is the noun form of “mindful,” but it has more exotic origins.

In the late 19th century, Thomas William Rhys Davids coined the word “mindfulness” – a synonym for “attention” – as an approximate translation of the Buddhist concept of sati.

The translation was indeed rough. Sati, which Buddhists consider the first of seven factors of enlightenment, means, more nearly, “memory of the present.”

In the 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn (a molecular biologist, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and author of Mindfulness for Beginners) sought to scrub meditation of its religious origins. He believed that more people would benefit from practicing “mindfulness” if the whiffs of reincarnation and other religious esoterica we detached from it. So he created a new meaning for “mindfulness”:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Kabat-Zinn’s purpose was to teach us to be present in our lives unconditionally. His program for “mindfulness-based stress reduction” is an alternative therapy for a variety of often difficult-to-treat conditions.

By the early 2000s, the concept of mindfulness had ballooned in popularity. It soon came to have many different meanings and varying approaches to treatment.

The Role of Mindfulness Today

WebMD indicates that mindfulness plays a part in improving our overall wellbeing, as well as our physical and mental health.

  • It supports an attitude that contributes to a satisfying life and allows us to savor the pleasures in our lives while keeping us fully engaged in activities and life.
  • We focus on the here and now and we become less likely to worry about the past.
  • Physically, it helps lower blood pressure and helps to relieve stress, which has a knock on effect to treating heart disease.
  • It can be used to relieve gastrointestinal problems while reducing chronic pain and improve sleep.
  • Mentally it is frequently used for people dealing with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and conflicts with partners.

Experts believe that practicing mindfulness works because it allows us to accept all of our life’s experiences, as opposed to brushing them off to avoid deal with them.

It is frequently used in combination with psychotherapy treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. They share a common goal, in that they both work to help patients gain perspective of their irrational, self-defeating thoughts.

Mindfulness Meditation

There are several ways to practice mindfulness, but the goal is the same in all of them. Every mindfulness technique is a form of meditation.

Psychology Today gives us a lesson on mindfulness meditation, and it takes just 10 to 15 minutes out of your day.

  • The most basic mindfulness meditation starts with sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing.
  • Let your thoughts come and go, and remember: NO JUDGMENT. Take time to notice body sensations, whether it’s a passing breeze or a tingle, and note each part of your body in sequence, from head to toe.
  • As you notice different sounds, smells, sights, touches, and tastes, silently name each one, and then . . .
    LET IT GO!
  • Allow your emotions to flow without judgment; just name each emotion as you feel it and then . . .
    LET IT GO!
  • If you’re dealing with addictive behaviors then as the craving enters, replace it with the knowledge that it will pass, and then . . .
    LET IT GO!

In short, mindfulness is good for your physical, mental and emotional health!


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