No, really. What is Mindfulness??
Let’s talk about a topic of which I’m sure many of us forget: mindfulness. When I was first given the theme of this series, I thought this would be easy. A couple of posts about mindfulness shouldn’t take too long to write. So, I procrastinated, like I always do (Don’t be like me, kids). Long story short, it’s a day before my deadline and my fingers are poised above my keyboard ready to type some truly poetic words about mindfulness, but I can’t. I’m stuck. What is mindfulness, really? How do we successfully achieve a mindful perspective in life? What are the benefits of mindfulness? These are all questions I will answer in this series, as I’m sure you’re just as curious as I am. Perhaps, like me, many of you think you know about mindfulness, but when asked to explain, you don’t really know how to put it into words. Well, thank me later, because I’m about to do just that. What is mindfulness, really? When I hear that someone is practicing mindfulness, I think of some intense Buddhist monk-ish type process where you spend hours meditating until you’ve reached some sort of higher state of being. I can’t be the only one to think this, right? Surprisingly, mindfulness is not a difficult process at all. Let’s get technical for a moment. The Oxford English Dictionary defines mindfulness as, “The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” (“mindfulness, n.”). I’m not sure about you, but that doesn’t seem too intense. Let’s give a more applicable definition for mindfulness, regarding how we refer to it in this series.
American professor and founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, interprets mindfulness as being, “a nonjudgmental, curious, and self-compassionate awareness of one’s moment-to-moment experience. [Mindfulness] is an active and deliberate regulation of one’s attention so as to focus it on the many cognitive events – sensations, thoughts, emotions, and so on – that occur within the field of consciousness at any given moment. Further, it is to manifest a nonjudgmental orientation toward these cognitions, treating them not as things to be liked and disliked, or pursued and resisted, but rather as objects of observation to simply acknowledge and accept as they are” (Raski 56). Since I might have lost you a bit with that definition, let me rephrase. To me, Kabat-Zinn is saying mindfulness is the attitude of being in the present and nonjudgmental in the events that happen to you. You must accept them as they are, something that happened, and move on. Mindfulness is such a revolutionary notion to me. To truly be able to be nonjudgmental in everything that happens to you seems extremely challenging, at least to me. You’re talking about someone who once gave everyone in her house the silent treatment after the last ice cream bar went missing. Impressively, there are many proven benefits to mindfulness, including reduced anxiety and stress, and an overall better outlook on life. Mindfulness has proven to be very effective and is widely used by psychologists and therapists around the world, but we’ll get more into that in the next post. So, we all learned something new today. I’m not going to lie, when I researched mindfulness, I wasn’t expecting this all-encompassing concept that is extremely popular in healthcare. It is complex in a way that you must actively practice it, day by day. My interest has been more than peaked. This week, I will try to have a mindful perspective and see how this affects me and my mood. I challenge you to do the same. I’ll be sure to share my findings in my next post. Oh, and by the way, mindfulness does have roots in Buddhist culture, so I guess I did know a little about mindfulness after all. *pats self on the back* See you next week! References
“mindfulness, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2002, https://www-oed- com.ezproxy.augusta.edu/view/Entry/118742?redirectedFrom=mindfulness. Raski, Matias P. “Mindfulness: What It Is and How It Is Impacting Healthcare.” UBC Medical Journal, vol. 7, no. 1, Oct. 2015, pp. 56–59.