Our busy, complicated lives sometimes bring a wave of negative emotions: sadness, jealousy, depression, grief, anger, confusion, anxiety, and stress. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy sometimes to succumb to the naturally powerful nature of these emotions and allow ourselves to be troubled for hours, days, or weeks on end.
On the other end of the spectrum, happiness, gratefulness, joy, relief, comfort and contentment are also emotional pieces we feel at times as we go throughout our lives. True happiness and emotional freedom is what all mankind strives for!
Although self-care is an important concept, many of us fall short in taking care of ourselves. Just as we take care of other aspects of our lives, our physical and emotional health must also take a front-seat priority. Consequences of failing to care for ourselves include a diminished immune system and other health issues.
Mindfulness and meditation in general can help you handle your emotions, achieve lower stress levels, feel happier, and enjoy peace and satisfaction with your life.
Psychologists, counselors, and therapists the world over have recognized the power that mindfulness can bring to our lives if we choose it. Luckily, anyone can harness the benefits of mindfulness with regular practice.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
It may surprise you to learn that the origins of mindfulness reach back thousands of years. Meditation was developed by Buddhist monks who turned meditation into a spiritual element of their “enlightenment.”
What do you think of when someone mentions meditation? Do images of religious monks sitting in circles and chanting “ohhmm” form in your head? Perhaps you’re a little skeptical of meditation and feel that it would take you hours each day in trying to get the technique right. Well, think again!
Mindfulness is not:
●Spending time thinking about the world and all the wonders in it
●Contemplating the great, deep mysteries of life
●Some magical practice thought to bring good luck to your life
●A spiritual practice reserved only for those in highest connection to their Creator
●Daydreaming or fantasizing about what your perfect life looks like
Yes, meditation and mindfulness in the modern world may have some of these mythical connotations, but mindfulness is actually much simpler.
In simple terms, mindfulness and meditation are ways to achieve a calmer state of mind. Mindfulness is essentially a subform of meditation.
Although mindfulness originated with non-western practitioners ages ago, it’s cultivated and studied by scientists, psychologists and doctors all over the world today.
How Do We Define Mindfulness?
In order to achieve the inner peace that mindfulness can bring us, it’s important to consider what the practice of mindfulness actually is.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is largely credited with bringing the popularity of mindfulness to the United States and refining it through his renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness like this:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
The Chinese calligraphy for mindfulness is made up of two different characters. The top character means “presence” and the bottom one means “heart.” Therefore, mindfulness literally means “presence of heart.”
Mindfulness is experiencing and focusing on the present moment.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re always focused on things and events of the future.
For example, we’re constantly looking forward to the last day of the work week while we’re at work, and what our weekend plans will bring. We look forward to our summer vacations. We look forward to the holidays. We look forward to our birthdays. We look forward to the end of the day when we get to crawl into bed.
In this sense, we’re never truly focused on the present moment, which is the purpose that mindfulness teaches us. Mindfulness is a way to focus on the present moment, to create an awareness, an acute, keen and specific consciousness of ourselves and to center ourselves right now in the present, not sometime in the future.
The Case for Mindfulness
Doctors and other experts are always coming out and telling us the next best thing since sliced bread that is supposed to benefit us in some way. Examples include dark chocolate being good for overall heart health, small amounts of wine reducing risks for heart disease and diabetes, and coconut oil boosting the immune system.
The same is true for the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness has been studied and shown to have huge benefits for your overall health.
The difference is that you’re not putting anything into your body with meditation. Coconut oil, dark chocolate, and wine are substances that you ingest to strengthen your physical health.
On the other hand, mindfulness meditation is a behavior shift that uses nothing more than the sole power of your focus and attention.
Empirical, measurable data has come forth showing that mindfulness helps more to lower stress and physically help the body than many other things put together.
For example, Carnegie Mellon University researchers worked with two groups of individuals. The researchers subjected the first group to just three 25-minute mindfulness training sessions, while the second group was a control and were trained in critical thinking skills.