What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a quality that allows us to maintain a sense of calm and inner peace in the midst of a busy world. It helps us to nourish our connection to a deep stillness that is not disturbed by the pushes and pulls of daily life.
To develop this kind of stability and calm, we learn to bring our attention to what is going on in the present moment.
Rather than getting caught up in the past or future, we become aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and perceptions as they are in the moment.
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now, without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”
Often we push things away because we judge them to be uncomfortable, painful or unimportant. Unfortunately, this tendency just creates more tension. With mindfulness, we learn to meet whatever perceptions are arising for us moment-to-moment with acceptance rather than resistance. This involves self compassion, softening and ‘allowing’ things to be as we find them, which is not easy but is always possible.
When we use mindfulness, we are able to take a step back and see our thoughts and experiences from the ‘outside’ as well as from the ‘inside’. This gives us space to see clearly what is present, before we choose how to react. It takes practice but it is the practice of turning to our experience with kindness, rather than a goal-orientated type of practice.
Mindfulness helps us to ease stress, relax a busy mind and release tension in the body.
When we are mindful, we are able to pause and make decisions from a place of balance and stability, rather than out of worry or stress. We are not so easily knocked off course by strong emotions when they inevitably arise because we know how to manage them in a way that makes us feel balanced and healthy.
Mindfulness also helps us to connect to joy and playfulness and to live with a greater sense of lightness and ease.
There is a rapidly growing body of research which suggests that mindfulness can have a positive effect on many aspects of physical and mental health. Studies show that mindfulness can:
- Boost the immune system
- Reduce stress
- Help fight depression
- Improve memory and emotion regulation
- Foster empathy, compassion and altruism
- Enhance creative thinking
- Improve relationships
- Reduce perception of pain