What is mindfulness and how it can help you
Mindfulness is currently a fashion concept. There are articles and posts on the subject and more and more courses and workshops on mindfulness are being offered.
What mindfulness is, what benefit it brings and what I have learned about it myself. I will also mention some myths that may make you doubt whether the topic is for you.
The history of mindfulness
Mindfulness is about full awareness. The concept comes from the Buddhist teachings of Siddharta Gautama about 2500 years ago. One could say that mindfulness is the western adaptation of the Buddha’s teaching at the time and the Vipassana movement to be aware of the present.
Although it appears to be a relatively new concept in the western world, clinical psychology and psychiatry have been developing mindfulness-based therapy techniques to treat depression, addictions, and stress since the 1970s .
Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the global pioneers in combining Zen, Yoga and Buddhist teachings with Western science on the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program. He also founded the Stress Management Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
But even before Jon Kabat-Zinn brought mindfulness into medicine, the Vietnamese monk and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh * founded the Tiep-Hien Order (translated Intersein Order) in France in 1966, where he completed the “5 Training for Mindfulness ”Taught. He has published over 100 books and dedicated his life to peace activism and the spread of Buddhist teachings and mindfulness.
What is mindfulness
Jon Kabat-Zinn * defined it like this: “Mindfulness means to be attentive in a certain way: consciously, in the present moment and without judgment”.
So it’s about paying attention to our thoughts, emotions , body feelings and the environment, with interest, without judgment, but with acceptance.
The tendency to ponder past and future
The most important thing of the concept is to be aware of the present moment. But we tend to ponder past and future; about what happened to us or what might or might not happen in the future. And this is exactly what can become a common source of stress .
It can be bad memories or a guilty conscience about a past event; or something that could have been but did not happen. Maybe we can turn a mosquito into an elephant with things that we are afraid of or that worry about, but that have not yet happened, may never happen or will happen differently than we imagine.
Advantages and disadvantages of the autopilot
Our brain also has the wonderful ability to filter thousands of incentives it receives every day and to automate and internalize certain actions. Imagine walking down stairs.
Have you ever become aware of what you were doing and almost tripped? The reason is that your body feels like it is dropping. But our brain has learned to coordinate parts of the body so that we go down step by step instead of falling.
But have you ever got out of the car, closed it, and as you moved away did you suddenly wonder whether you had really closed it? That is the not so good part of the automation of our brain, the so-called autopilot.
It can lead us to go through life like a robot and miss the present. A day goes by like a blur and we can hardly remember what we did, but we are exhausted. Because if we let the autopilot guide us, we separate mind and body.
The benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches us techniques that help us bring the mind into the present by harmonizing with our body feelings. Because our body cannot exist in the past or in the future, but only in the present moment. We learn to live more consciously and to appreciate the little things and what happens to us.
You will surely have heard how useful mindfulness is for stress management . This is because the various techniques and exercises teach self-control and patience, acceptance and resilience, even gratitude. You also train your ability to concentrate , self-confidence and self-knowledge.
This better knowledge bundled with acceptance and patience will also help us in our interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, mindfulness can increase creativity because a calm mind can better come up with new ideas.
What I learned with mindfulness
Let me tell you how I discovered mindfulness and what it brought me. I had read several articles and posts on the Internet about the topic and it had sparked my curiosity.
I am grateful to have plunged myself upside down because it helped me above all to be more patient and that potentially stressful situations are less of an issue for me.
Because I have to admit that I have a tendency to be stressed by impotence , which means I am stressed, for example, when I have to wait for someone else’s work or when someone does something the way I would.
Now I’m dealing with it much better. In addition, some mindfulness exercises help me to relieve tension in the back after a day in front of the computer.
How quickly do you feel the effects?
If you ask yourself this question, the answer is quick and slow at the same time. It is not a miraculous vaccine that you get once and then it was. Although you notice some positive effects fairly quickly, the real benefit is its consistency and habit.
So if you are considering taking a course, keep in mind that the story doesn’t end when the class is over. Rather, it starts because it is about learning new beneficial and healthy habits, incorporating them into everyday life and maintaining them in the long term.
If you want to take a course, I recommend a multi-week course instead of an intensive weekend course. It is assumed that it takes a month or two to acquire a new habit. A course of several weeks will help you to get used to it gradually.
Recommendations to start with mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches you that people are valuable just because they are alive and breathing. You will learn to enjoy it, just to be simple without doing more than to breathe.
When we start practicing and experimenting with new impressions, our mind will inevitably digress and bombard us with thoughts: “Is that complicated!?”, “Is it exhausting?.” “How long do I have to wait?” “My face itches and I want to scratch myself. ”“ My back hurts. ”and a long list of other excuses. It may also be that our dear head reminds us of things that we should do, that we have forgotten or that would be much more fun.
Therefore, it is crucial to have patience and compassion for ourselves. It is also important to learn to ignore and accept negative thoughts or distractions without paying much attention to them. Remember the sentence by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
It’s about being attentive, but without judging and pondering the things that go through our heads. So accept the thoughts and let them flow through.
Some myths about mindfulness
– Don’t think of anything
Mindfulness and the associated meditation techniques don’t teach you to think about nothing. Because it is actually practically impossible to stop thinking. On the contrary, it is about learning to consciously pay attention to thoughts, emotions and body feelings without evaluating them, but to let them flow through until they disappear.
– To be useful, you have to meditate for at least half an hour
Now there are recommendations that you have to practice for at least half an hour or even an hour a day. Of course, this can lead us to the perfect excuse that we don’t have time for this new habit. But in fact you can see positive effects with just five minutes a day.
At the beginning, I find it advisable to gradually extend the exercises in order to practice and get used to it. But after that, we should find out for ourselves the duration that is useful and practical for us to incorporate the exercises into our lifestyle and not to give up due to time constraints.
– It is a religion
Although mindfulness stems from Buddhist teachings, there is no need to believe in this religion or in mystical or transcendental experiences as it does not seek enlightenment or a state of altered consciousness.
– It is a relaxation technique
Although relaxation and stress relief are usually effects of mindfulness practice , it is not the goal in itself. The purpose is to learn to experience the present more consciously and attentively, with acceptance and without judgments or prejudices.
There are other myths. But I just wanted to give a few examples that may have kept you from mindfulness so far.
Are you ready to live more mindfully?
As you can see, mindfulness has many beneficial effects. Plus, it doesn’t take much time to have positive effects on your life. In another article we will take a closer look at techniques and exercises .
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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
- THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO MINDFULNESS MEDITATION THAT WILL MOTIVATE YOU TODAY
- 4 SIMPLE MINDFULNESS EXERCISES THAT WILL HELP YOU LIVE A MORE PEACEFUL LIFE
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