What is mindfulness and what are the benefits?
Mindfulness means being in the present moment. Noticing the own thoughts without judging or attaching to them. It is about being compassionate to yourself and others. Also, it is about accepting the current state and being able to let go.
Mindfulness was first introduced in the 1970s to help people who suffer from chronic pain, but there are various things mindfulness can help us with.
In today’s world, with the technology helping us in many ways, it also leads to more stress, because people expect shorter respond rates and short times to finish projects. Many people forget about themselves and their own needs. They are not aware of their thoughts and emotions which can lead to burnout and panic attacks. The stress levels are high and the fear of failure or losing a job/project because of a competitor is big.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung
Mindfulness can help to balance the left and right side of the brain – the more rational, logical part and the emotional, artistic part. Also, it helps is to stay calmer in stressful situations – for example during traffic or in meetings. Instead of letting the amygdala react for us in a stressful situation within only 30ms and getting angry, we are able to use the rational part in our brain which usually takes about 100ms to decide. With practicing mindfulness we can even make this process longer to 250ms. It helps us to stay calmer and instead of reacting we are able to respond. This means, in the long run, we are less stressed and more balanced.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl
But mindfulness cannot only help with these parts in life. It can even help people suffering from depression, chronic pain or ADHD. MRI tests prove that when practicing mindfulness for about 8 weeks the pain can be reduced by 75% and when practicing mindfulness on a longer term, the pain can be reduced even more. If suffering from depression, mindfulness can reduce the risk of relapse.
To notice the benefits of mindfulness, it needs regular practice to rewire the brain (neuroplasticity).
There are two types of ways to practice mindfulness, the informal and the formal way. The formal way is through meditation and the informal way can be practiced during the daily life. For example, by doing tasks mindful: being fully present at the moment and whenever thoughts come up you can notice them without judging and then letting them go. Like a cloud in a blue sky or a leaf floating on a river.
Whenever you notice being distracted by thoughts, you can get yourself back in the present by using your senses: What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you see? What do you hear?
The attitudes of mindfulness are non-judging, being patient and curious (“a beginners mind”), trust, non-striving, acceptance, and letting go. This is why I believe, mindfulness can even help us with bigger things: like aggression or distrust against foreigners, other countries and religions.
“The real question is not whether life exists after death. The real question is whether you are alive before death.” – Osho