Mindfulness is basically bringing attention to our moment-to-moment experience with openness and clarity. A meditation practice that comes from the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is now being used by Western psychologists to help patients become more focused and relaxed, and to build skills to lower stress and well-being.
Mindfulness training can strengthen attention, develop self-awareness, help regulate emotions, and reduce overall stress.
Learning to become more mindful can help to retrain the brain, and enable you to better focus your attention over time. Scientists have discovered that the brain has plasticity throughout life. This means that the connections of the brain can be strengthened and new connections can be created.
So what is mindfulness really?
Often we are on autopilot. We do one thing while thinking about something else, always a little distracted.
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, whether that is what we are thinking, feeling, hearing, seeing, or touching.
In this way, we can learn new ways of relating to our bodies, thoughts, and emotions. We can learn to approach each moment with a sense of curiosity and acceptance, not judging but just allowing. We can learn to be with ourselves in a kind, supportive way.
By working with mindfulness you can also learn to focus your attention where you want it to go. When you become distracted, you will be able to notice that, and make the choice to bring it back.
You will also begin to notice when you are pulled by your emotional reactions to people and events. By ‘stepping back’ and observing what is happening, you will be able to choose how you respond when someone is ‘pushing your buttons.’
There are many ways of incorporating simple mindfulness skills in daily life. Learning to be more mindful can lead to greater awareness and help you develop more choice and sense of control in your life.
Research has shown that mindfulness training can bring about:
- Less anxiety and stress.
- An enhanced ability to pay attention under distracting conditions.
- Greater clarity of thinking.
- Increased learning capacity and memory.
- A greater sense of well-being.
Mindfulness is not a quick fix; but on the other hand, its effects can be felt immediately. Then we need to continue to practice to make it a part of our lives. Ultimately, mindfulness and other focusing techniques can lengthen and strengthen the attention.