Understanding Mindfulness

Can you think of a time when you were incredibly stressed, but had to make an important decision? Or, have you ever been so exhausted by the end of a long work week that you feel as if you are running on autopilot, incapable of processing any information and lacking desire to spend time with friends or family? There are endless scenarios to describe the reasoning behind mindfulness and mindfulness techniques, but we are all aware of the times where we are simply lacking in our attention to the present moment.

According to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the stress-reduction program “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)”, one of the top research-backed mindfulness programs around today, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness is the ability to be present through awareness; the ability to examine situations without becoming overwhelmed, anxiety-filled, and reactive. We all, as humans, have the innate ability to be mindful and aware of the present moment, but mindfulness is a skill like any other. We have become so engulfed in the fast-paced lifestyle, especially in the business world, that now dominates our daily lives. Without constant practice, as with anything, we cannot expect to be proficient at mindfulness skills – but that is an easy fix.

Mindfulness consists of many techniques and benefits, but is difficult to define with one universal meaning. However, every person can remember a time where they felt in tune and connected with where they were in the present moment – our mind is focused on the task at hand, the surrounding sounds and situations, understanding how our body feels in that present moment, all while openly letting all positive and negative thoughts and ideas run through our head while examining them without judgement. We are living in the moment.

Benefits of Mindfulness in Your Daily Life

Many people have been doubting the reliability of mindfulness and the actual benefits that are associated with it. Since mindfulness has become such a popular health and wellness ideal, many in the medical and scientific field have started conducting studies to see just how beneficial mindfulness really is. Below is a list of positive outcomes (just a few, not all!) associated with mindfulness, all of which have had scientific research and backing. While some of these benefits are still in the early stages for scientific proof, meaning they will need further research and studies to substantiate studies that have already been done, all of the studies that have already been conducted have shown promising signs for mindfulness benefits for daily living.

  • Mindfulness Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD: A new study has shown positive results for utilizing mindfulness techniques with traditional CBT for patients with ADHD. The study showed a significant reduction in ADHD symptoms, mental health, and overall daily functioning for those suffering with ADHD. While there is still more work to be done in the field of scientific mindfulness applications, both with ADHD and all of the other benefits listed below, this study shows significant progress in the scientific research side of mindfulness and treatment of chronic issues like ADHD. Mindfulness therapies are being correlated with treating people with chronic, long-term disorders that affect focus and attention, so logically, mindfulness for the average person should help with minor focus and attention issues as well – because we all know we have lost focus or our “train of thought” for no reason other than lack of attention or mindfulness.
  • Rumination Reduction: We are all susceptible to mindless rumination that, more often than not, negatively affects all aspects of life – and rumination also is linked to depressive symptoms because it tends to lead to negative thought when ruminating long enough. Through mindfulness techniques though, studies have shown that regular meditation can reduce negative rumination, which ultimately allows all of us to dedicate our time and thoughts to more attentive practices that contribute to us reaching our peak performances in all facets of life.
  • Stress: Stress is a major hindrance to many people today, especially in the workplace. Mindfulness techniques, whether that is deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or even exercise, have been shown to produce positive effects when dealing with stress. Stress has become well-known for many different physiological and psychological issues that plague many people today, but if we have the ability to practice simple, easy, and flexible mindfulness techniques on a daily basis that have been shown to greatly reduce stress levels – why not give them a shot?
  • Emotional Reactivity: Emotions are an integral part of being human, and emotions should never be considered ‘bad’ or ‘unacceptable’ – because you feel how you feel regarding a certain situation or moment, and that is okay. You are allowed to feel whatever you are feeling; but, the negative connotation that emotions have is often based on the reaction that we have when we are experiencing a particular emotion. Emotions are acceptable, but reacting in an unproductive, rude, or dangerous way is not – but unfortunately, we have all reacted poorly based on an emotional situation. Studies have shown that continuously practiced mindfulness techniques can provide people the ability to focus better on the task at hand, even if there is an emotional response, without reacting on it. Hence a key part of the definition of mindfulness: allowing and examining thoughts and feelings without judgement.
  • Mindfulness in Your Job: The United States is losing billions of dollars on employees because of workplace stress and the medical issues that stress brings. This has led to many major companies turning to the implementation of mindfulness practices and teachings in the workplace. Some of these companies include Aetna, Keurig Green Mountain, Intel, Google, General Mills, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, and many more. The owners of these companies have sought out alternatives that can help not only their employees, but themselves, with stress. This has led to a new way of leadership that embodies, practices, and then implements throughout the entire company and/or organization the benefits of mindfulness practices. The Harvard Business Review has shown major correlations between mindfulness and the benefits it has with CEOs. Overall, many business owners are seeing how stressed, anxiety-filled, inattentive, and unmotivated their employees have become – and understandably so when examining the workplace situations that have been created over the years. After seeing positive results in numerous large companies, business owners everywhere are figuring out how they can implement the best mindfulness techniques to improve the health and wellbeing of themselves and their employees, which in turn benefits innovation, creative collaboration, and profitability.
  • Spirituality: Who you are, what you believe in, and how you lead your life are all tied to your spirituality. When you are being more mindful in your day to day life, you are connecting to this spirituality in more meaningful and enlightening ways. Through daily practice of mindfulness techniques, you learn how to connect with your beliefs and practices, while honing them to your needs. Mindfulness and spirituality – whatever that means for you – go hand in hand, and without it, you cannot achieve a fully awakened life.