In a world of constant movement and rush, the need for peace and calm is increasing significantly. People are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety as their biological response to overcome the demands of their work and life. But the resources they use are burning them out from the inside, so, as a result new tools such as mindfulness are becoming more and more important.
Mindfulness is a special type of meditation that encourages people to experience their present life with a different focus. Basically, it helps individuals to slow down and appreciate the beauty around them. The only thing they need is a personal commitment with their psychological and physical health and a lot of practice.
The only way that people can reach a mindful state is by practicing their disconnection from the noise outside on a daily basis. As we do in SINEWS Multilingual Therapy Institute, you can support and guide your practice through group sessions, but if you want to see how your heart rate decreases or your anxiety goes away, it’s up to you to practice mindfulness every day.
And last but not least, we need to mention that mindfulness means more than just letting your mind go blank. It’s about building consciousness about the present moment, everything that happens both inside and out. It’s a changing experience that helps you improve your wellbeing and long-term life satisfaction.
If we search for the word mindfulness in internet, we might find more than 500,000 different resources that try to help us to understand this concept. Even within those search results we might find plenty of different recommendations to become a mindful person. But, from my professional perspective, there’s only one real way to really discover what mindfulness means: practicing it.
In general terms, we could say that mindfulness is not such as a new trend. During millions of years, Asian cultures have been practicing many types of meditation. These practices have the purpose of helping you to disconnect from the surroundings and to connect with what really matters: the individual. The way in which you disconnect from your surroundings depends on the approach of your chosen practice, but the core of it is the same: taking care of your psychological balance. And because of this core, we, as psychologists, are encouraging our clients more and more to become mindful. Also, this basic core is closely linked to the basic idea that says that mindfulness helps us to train our mind to put the focus on what we really want to be focused. This means that we become capable of shifting our focus according to the situation we are in. A clear example of this is when we are at the office having a very busy day, with a high workload and lots of demands from our boss or coworkers. Being mindful is the ability to disconnect even for five minutes and enjoy that break regardless of the bustling environment.
So, why do we recommend practicing mindfulness? It might seem a bit confusing that clinical psychologists recommend the practice of this “new” trend as a way to improve our clients’ wellbeing when there are many other techniques that have been scientifically proven to help in that aspect. It is because our experience has shown us the multiple benefits of mindfulness, not only with functional clients but also for clients suffering from anxiety or depression. These benefits can be classified in two main types: physical benefits and psychological benefits. Let’s dive into each on these:
Physical benefits of mindfulness.
According to numerous research studies, mindfulness has been proven to:
Improve our heart rate, reducing the likelihood to have heart diseases.
Decrease the negative impact of psychological symptoms.
Balance our autonomous nervous system.
Increase the amount of grey matter in the brain, which contains our motor and sensory neurons.
Enhances the balance of our limbic system.
We tend to put a lot of physical pressure on our bodies, in addition to the pressure on our minds: we go rushing everywhere, we don’t pay attention to our body signals, etc. Just by practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes every day, we can benefit from it and we will set our physical health as a priority.
A good example we tend to give our clients is to use their walks to their office as a way to disconnect from the stress of the ride. How? Imagine that you are walking quickly to arrive to the office, your mind is anticipating all the things that might happen during the day. In the moment in which you realize this speed, start walking slowly, putting your focus of attention in how your foot guide you consciously to a new place, enjoying the weather, the beauty of your pathway. You will see how your heart rate decreases significantly and you will get to work with a low base level of activation (stress). That’s being mindful.
Psychological benefits of mindfulness.
We could be talking about the psychological benefits of this practice for hours, and all the clients that have tried mindfulness with support us with their own experiences. In my case, after a few years of daily practice of mindfulness, I would highlight the following three main benefits:
Mindfulness facilitates building your self-concept based on what you learn about yourself. Every time you disconnect from the outside and focus on your breathing, you’re connecting to your inner self. This way it is easy to maintain an internal dialogue with your feelings and basic sensations, and therefore, discover what you like and what you don’t like. And how does it happen? Keep in mind that mindfulness is not only about the 10 minutes you practice it, it’s about committing to the mindset and life reality with a different perspective.
Mindfulness connects you to the present moment. Researches tell us that we expend most of our time thinking about past experiences (mostly associated to negative emotions such as regret, guilt or sadness) or trying to anticipate what it’s going to happen in the future (reinforcing an unreasonable amount of need of control and fear to uncertainty). We live our lives without consciousness, without paying attention to what happens. Mindfulness train us to have mind flexibility to know when what we are thinking doesn’t allow us to be in the present situation. And one essential thing: this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to negative emotions, actually we really need them. But we need to learn to deal and accept negative emotions but being capable to look for the positive and present ones.
Mindfulness encourages you to be grateful and appreciate the beauty around you. Because it’s not only about being in the present knowing how you really are, but also to be open to enjoying what happens around you. There’s beauty in everything we do and we experience, but it requires time to really focus on it. Mindfulness helps you to give yourself a break to appreciate the small details that makes the difference. And as your awareness grows, you gratitude too. You will become grateful for feeling alive because you will learn how many things you have missed during your life and how beautiful is life now that you experience it with full attention.
But these are not the only benefits. From my point of view, there are other two benefits worth mentioning: mindfulness boosts your creativity and it facilitates the use of empathy and social skills in difficult contexts. If you want to become a more “think outside of the box” person, give yourself the space to connect with fresh air. Or, if you want to improve your social interaction, cultivate your mindful state to be able to focus on the positive things in social context instead on the elements that trigger your anxiety.
To close this article, I would like to go one step further. Mindfulness is not just a practice or a theory of well-being. Mindfulness is not even just a meditation practice. Mindfulness is a type of mindset. Mindfulness is a way of living. Mindfulness is a way to focus on the present to experience life from a different light. That’s the difficult part of becoming mindful, but if you reach that state of mind, you will discover the beauty of your surroundings and you will be more satisfied without having the active need to reach for happiness. Your mindful mind will do all the work for you.
In SINEWS we are completely sure about these benefits and that’s why we offer Mindfulness sessions every Saturday. We actively build a space of peace and growth for individuals who wants to improve their life satisfaction. If you want to join our powerful group sessions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.