The What, Why, and How of Mindfulness
by Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins
Mindfulness is all the rage these days, with everyone from celebrities to athletes to business leaders touting its benefits. But what exactly is mindfulness? What’s so good about it? And how do you make it a regular part of your life?
what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness may seem mysterious, “woo-woo” or complicated, but it’s not. It simply means focusing your awareness on the present moment. That’s it! When you’re mindful, you’re paying purposeful attention to the present. And you’re doing so with acceptance, an open mind, and no judgement. We’re not being mindful when we tune out, run on autopilot, worry about the future or judge the past.
Mindfulness and meditation are often discussed together. They are related but are actually different. Mindfulness is focusing attention on the present moment, whatever that moment may be. Meditation however, is a practice of concentrated focus on a specific thing such as a sound, object, visualization, mantra, or the breath in order to achieve increased awareness. Meditation is a tool that many people use to achieve mindfulness.
why mindfulness matters
Mindfulness has a whole host of benefits for your health and well-being!
Research has shown that mindfulness can help you better regulate your emotions, makes you less reactive to stressful events, and helps you be more flexible when responding to life circumstances. Mindfulness improves relationship satisfaction by improving your ability to deal with conflict. It also improves your self-insight and intuition, increases your empathy and compassion, and reduces fear.
Mindfulness can enhance your ability to do positive things for your health like get checkups, exercise, or limit alcohol and tobacco. It has even been shown to lead to improved cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure. For those dealing with excess weight, mindfulness can help by improving attitudes and behavior surrounding eating.
If you are trying to improve your health, when you approach it with mindfulness, it enables you to develop flexibility and resilience to change bad habits. For me as a health and wellness coach, mindfulness allows me to focus completely on each client as we work together to achieve their best health.
how you can be mindful
If you already have a mindfulness practice, great! If not, know that we all have the ability within us to be mindful. And it’s useful regardless of your religion or spirituality. The more we practice mindfulness, the more accessible it becomes.
The Well section of The New York Times has a great series called Meditation For Real Life. It gives easy to follow advice on how to be mindful in various real life situations. You can access up to 10 New York Times articles per month for free so pick one or two below and get started being mindful!
Looking for more? The series covers many other activities like how to be mindful while brushing your teeth, while on an airplane, or doing the dishes. It even covers more sensitive areas like being mindful with your in-laws or while falling in love.
If these don’t appeal to you, there are many ways you can achieve mindfulness. Meditation (read this to get you started), prayer, deep breathing, or experiencing nature are all ways that can work for you to cultivate mindfulness. Let me know in the comments how you plan to incorporate mindfulness into your life.