What is mindfulness?
You may have already heard of the term ‘mindfulness’, as it’s become a bit of a buzz word in the media of late. But what exactly is it?
Mindfulness is really a very simple concept. It means being aware of the present moment (including where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling etc.) without judging or becoming attached to that moment. In other words, mindfulness is:
- Focusing on the here and now
- Paying attention to both your inner (psychological) and outer (physical/material) worlds
- Letting go of judgements, evaluations, and struggles with reality
- Attending to each new moment as it comes, rather than dwelling on the past or grasping for the future
Mindfulness allows us to gain insight and awareness of our experience through observation. Rather than getting lost in our thoughts and emotions, mindfulness can help us accurately understand what’s going on around us and how best to respond. Instead of being overly reactive or overwhelmed, mindfulness helps us better understand our thoughts and feelings and determine whether our behaviour is serving us well. It also allows us to be fully engaged in what we’re doing for enhanced performance and fulfilment.
Being mindful is the opposite of being ‘unmindful’ or acting mindlessly. If you often think about the past or future, act impulsively, feel ‘disconnected’ from others, lack self-awareness, or feel so caught up in your head that you’re unable to enjoy anything, then you’re a good candidate for mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness practice involves deliberately practicing mindfulness skills. It is the repeated choice to bring your awareness back to the present moment, whenever it wanders, and to let go of attachment to current thoughts, feelings, situations, outcomes, life situations, and so on. We will cover specific skills and ways to practice mindfulness in the sections to come.