Mindfulness, A Golden PathApr 16, 2022
Mindfulness is almost magical and offers a golden path to both resiliency and well-being. It creates awareness and generates possibilities. Today, the term mindfulness is used in various ways and interpreted loosely. That’s not surprising because mindfulness spans many beliefs, disciplines, sciences, and interventions. It has rich roots in eastern spirituality and modern branches in neuroscience, mental health interventions, cognitive performance, and organizational performance. Mindfulness means different things to different people depending on how it is practiced and the targeted outcome.
Mindfulness can be simply defined as a conscious state of open, receptive awareness of the present moment (Kashdan & Ciarrochi, 2013). But it is so much more. At its core, mindfulness is brain training that creates a sense of calm clarity as we practice it. This is called a state effect, meaning that while we are practicing, we enjoy the cognitive and emotional benefits of mindfulness. Neuroscience also shows that when we practice mindfulness consistently, over time we change our brains. This creates a trait effect that last beyond the practice. Meaning, that the gifts of mindfulness become a part of who we are. It becomes a part of our nature. By practicing mindfulness, we create lasting benefits that stick with us.
So, What Are the Benefits?
Mindfulness has been researched extensively and demonstrated to improve every aspect of our well-being and to enhance our cognitive performance. It supports resilience in many ways. When we practice mindfulness, we gain a sense of peace. We are able to experience the pain of difficulties without over reacting. We gain cognitive flexibility and are better able to see possibilities embedded in our struggles. Mindfulness supports self-compassion and fosters a healthy relationship with ourselves. It helps us connect with others through empathy and compassion. Mindfulness is associated with decreases in stress, anxiety, and depression.
Numerous neuroscience studies support that mindfulness has beneficial effects while we are practicing it, as well as lasting positive benefits for those who make mindfulness a routine. With mindfulness, changes in the brain occur over time to deliver benefits that enhance our well-being and performance (Holzel, 2011).
Mindfulness is associated with greater self-awareness, self-regulation, and emotional intelligence. It makes us more effective in the moment. With mindfulness, we are better able to notice what is unfolding in real time. We gain an observer’s perspective, able to see how we are acting and responding, as well as being aware of how others are responding. This vantage point enhances our interactions and effectiveness because we have a better understanding of our needs and the needs of others. Another powerful gift of mindfulness is the ability to see the possibilities hidden in difficult situations.
Heightened awareness combined with enhanced self-regulation create agility, enabling us to shift our thinking to meet the needs of the moment. This dexterity enables us to direct our attention where it can have the most positive impact. We are able to respond to situations and others in the most appropriate way. Mindfulness helps us cope with stress and interact with others in ways that build trust and respect.
Through simple, routine mindfulness exercises, we can train our brains to become more mindful and effective in the moment. The three main ways to practice mindfulness are meditation, mindful movement, and sensory awareness.
Simple Ways to Try Mindfulness
- Sit comfortably on a sofa or chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting in your lap. Take three deep rounds of breath, paying attention to the sensations of the breath entering the nostrils, filling the lungs and belly, and exiting the nose or mouth.
- Stand up tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your side. Breath in deeply and as you do so stretch your hands out to the side and overhead. Try to time your hands touching overhead as you complete your inhale. When you exhale, allow your hands to remain together and gently drift down to your waist and then separate and fall to your sides as you complete your exhalation. Repeat several times.
- Transform a routine task into a sensory awareness exercise. Choose something you do every day, like making coffee or washing your face. Do it as you always do, but place all of your focus on the task. Use as many of your senses as you can - sight, sound, touch, smell, taste - to notice what is happening in the moment. If you catch your attention drifting, just redirect it back to fully experiencing the task, in the moment.
- Access a brief video to try 3 simple mindful moments
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