Mindfulness is the intentional act of focusing on the present and becoming aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and body movements. One of the key aspects of mindfulness is to only observe and not make any judgments. This means avoiding labeling one’s thoughts and feelings as good or bad, but rather accepting them as they are. For example, if you are feeling guilty, being mindful would involve becoming aware of your guilt but not criticizing yourself for feeling guilty. If you find that you are often too hard on yourself, mindfulness can be a great tool for you.
Why is mindfulness important?
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, introduced mindfulness in the Western culture by developing a program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Dr. Kabat-Zinn developed MBSR as a treatment approach for patients with chronic pain. MBSR involves meditation and yoga with the overall goal of reducing stress and developing feelings of deep calm. Besides providing pain relief, mindfulness also reduces stress, allows for better sleep, prevents depression, and provides cognitive benefits.
How to practice mindfulness
You can practice mindfulness in the smallest of moments throughout the day. Pause right now and pay attention to your breathing and the sensations your body is feeling. What sounds can you identify? Is your body feeling cold or hot? Identify the thoughts you are experiencing.
Mindfulness can be practiced in a variety of ways. Some people choose to practice mindfulness during meditation sessions, while others simply take a couple of minutes in the morning to cultivate awareness while still laying in bed. I like to practice mindfulness while eating meals by focusing on every bite and intentionally engaging with the tastes. There is no right or wrong way to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.
Focusing on thoughts, feelings, and body sensations can help you understand yourself better and cope with uncomfortable emotions. The intentional act of not judging or labeling emotions enables self-compassion and self-love.