Mindfulness has become a very widely used word these days. Research has shown that it can have a beneficial impact on our well-being, helping us to develop and foster a more balanced and positive mindset and to incorporate and strengthen positive habits.
You may be wondering, how is it so?
Let’s start by clarifying what Mindfulness is:
In simple terms, Mindfulness is the ability to bring our attention to the present moment, with an open and kind attitude.
Origins Of Mindfulness
Modern Mindfulness is a scientific secular discipline, rooted in ancient traditions that have been of interest in the West since the late 1970s, and started gaining visibility thanks to one of its main proponents, Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn. Dr. Zinn is an American professor of medicine who was interested in exploring the possible benefits of Mindfulness meditation in the management of stress in patients dealing with pain.
Therefore, he developed and subsequently conducted several studies to determine the effectiveness of an 8-week Mindfulness based program, which included meditation, gentle yoga practices, and body awareness to reduce the levels of stress and anxiety, showing significant benefits.
Over the past few decades, a broad body of research has been conducted and the benefits of Mindfulness practices have been evidenced in physical, mental, emotional and social well-being, with various populations and age groups.
Formal And Informal Practices
Mindfulness can be viewed in two ways: formal and informal. As a formal practice, we generally refer to some form of meditation, like the body scan or the mindfulness of breath. The informal practice is usually a shorter one, that is incorporated into our normal routine, and relies mostly on bringing on purpose an attitude of genuine presence to whatever activity we’re doing.
A State And A trait
Mindfulness is a state when we are able to remain focused on the chosen object of our practice, be it a visual, tactile, or mental object. It is a trait when we are able to remember, whether during our formal practice or during our daily life, to go back to the chosen focus of attention and notice every time we lose track of it.
How Can Mindfulness Help Us Develop A More Positive Mindset?
When we practice Mindfulness, we start developing the ability to observe our present moment experience, which includes our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. This can have a positive impact in several ways:
- We disengage from the usual cycle of being in ‘doing mode’, and can be truly present for what’s in front of us. This means we can savor pleasant experiences, such as a delicious sip of refreshing water, the scent of fresh flowers, the beauty of the sky or even something as mundane as the sensation of the water running through our hands.
- We ground ourselves in the present, which prevents us from dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. A great part of our lives could be lost in rumination, anxiety, and regret. Mindfulness is our anchor to this instant, because there won’t be another one exactly like it.
- We create some distance from our experience, whether it’s pleasant or not, avoiding identifying ourselves with the thoughts, emotions and body sensations we encounter. Experiencing an unpleasant emotion or thought doesn’t necessarily make it a fact and it’s not an equivalent of who we are.
- Because we observe that any kind of experience and stimuli are not permanent, we can let go of unpleasant thoughts and emotions more easily.
How Can Mindfulness Help Us Create Positive Habits?
- When we develop our ability to become aware, we can recognize patterns and positive habits that could be beneficial, in terms of our physical, mental, and emotional health. These are the habits we will prioritize in the long-term.
- Through Mindfulness, we discover the power of the present and realize that small actions lead to the overall results we might encounter later on. We feel empowered to make the changes needed to improve our quality of life.
- We can have a broader perspective of circumstances and events, without bias and filters; therefore, it’s easier to acknowledge our role in how events unfold, while understanding that there will always be things out of our control.
Simple Tips To Start Practicing Mindfulness Today
- Observe your thoughts as mere thoughts: You can visualize them as leaves flowing down a stream. Without clinging, without rejecting, just letting them go at their own rhythm and eventually disappearing. This way, you become the observer that isn’t immediately reactive to what is appearing on your mental screen.
- Practice gratitude while eating to foster a positive mindset: Feel thankful for the food in front of you, for the resources and people involved, so the product could be available for your consumption. Take deep breaths and chew slowly.
- Practice loving-kindness meditation: Send yourself wishes of genuine happiness, well-being, kindness, support, health and unconditional love with phrases like: ‘May I be well, May I be healthy, May I be peaceful, May I live at ease’. Feel free to explore whatever phrases resonate with you the most and are aligned with what you actually need. Practicing self-kindness intentionally will help you develop a better relationship with yourself and a more positive mindset.
- Start incorporating a positive habit into your routine, with extra motivation of practicing it mindfully. For instance, you can drink water in the morning, focusing your attention on the body sensations; you can go for a walk and use it as an opportunity to ground yourself in the present moment, whilst observing your surroundings, listening to sounds, and breathing with full awareness.
Mindfulness is a very useful resource to not only foster our awareness and ability to remain focused, but it can also improve our chances of sticking to positive habits and developing a much more positive mindset.
Remember that lasting changes might take time, so be patient, gentle, and kind to yourself and stay consistent.
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Laura Granada is a Veterinary Doctor with a Masters in Music Therapy and a Masters in Mindfulness, with extensive experience in the clinical and community field.
She is a pioneer in the creation of a comprehensive approach aimed at all spheres of the human being, including mindfulness, music therapy, compassion, mindful movement and mindful eating.
She has had the opportunity to live in numerous cities in Colombia, as well as in Brazil, the United States and Spain, which has given her a broad vision of the human condition and the incessant pursuit of happiness that is common to us all.