Updated: May 2, 2019
You've probably heard of Mindfulness by now, or maybe you haven't! It's starting to seem like a "craze" in the mental health community, because everyone is talking about it as of recent, and it's popularity has been gaining momentum.
But did you know... Mindfulness has been around forever!
Read below to get the full scoop on Mindfulness, its impact on your mental health, and why it's gaining popularity! This post contains affiliate links, for more information, see my disclaimer!
Mindfulness isn't a new phenomenon. For hundreds, maybe thousands of years people all over the world have been practicing Mindfulness in their day-to-day lives. Mindfulness is published in scientific journals, and has been labeled an adaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategy.
Okay now for English... Mindfulness has been proven to be very helpful in understanding how you process the emotions you feel, how to control those processes, and how to control your responses to these emotions.
Here's a definition of Mindfulness, provided by Mindful.org:
"Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us."
Seems easy enough, right?
Here's a definition provided by this scientific journal article:
"Mindfulness emphasizes the importance of observing a wide range of stimuli as a whole, including one’s own internal sensations as well as external phenomena outside the body. Moreover, mindfulness encourages describing observed phenomena, within the body and in the outer world, and engaging fully in one’s current activity with undivided attention, such that awareness is focused on one experience at a time, but not completely caught or involved in the experiences, i.e., focused attention with keeping some distance between oneself and the experiences. Additionally, mindfulness emphasizes accepting, allowing, or being nonjudgmental or non-evaluative about an experience in the present moment."
Now this sounds like something that might take really focused effort, years of practice, or a therapist to fully comprehend and put into practice, however this is far from the case. Mindfulness is practiced by everyone... Every. Single. Day.
Have you ever heard the phrases, "live in the moment" or "try to be present"?
When we choose to not dwell on the past, or worry about the future, this is Mindfulness! Well, for the most part.
Mindfulness requires paying attention to where you are in the present, how you feel in the present, and not freaking out about the reality of either. If you're sad right now, you can feel sad and not put yourself down for it! If you're anxious, maybe paying attention to your exact feelings in the present moment will give you some clarity on your anxiety, and without being judgmental of yourself or those feelings, you can fully live in the present and be able to move on.
How can we move on from emotions we feel in the present, if we are restraining ourselves and our emotions in the past or the future?
Self-Compassion and Mindfulness
Self-Compassion is an important and transformative concept that teaches people to treat themselves like they would treat a friend. So for example, if your friend was experiencing deep hurt and pain, you wouldn't go and try to put them down more! The same goes for yourself- you need to treat yourself with compassion.
Dr. Neff is a leading researcher on Self-Compassion, and part of her studies have shown the importance of practicing Mindfulness in order to also practice Self-Compassion. Here's what she says about Self-Compassion and Mindfulness:
"Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity."
If you'd like to read more on Self-Compassion, read more here!
How To Practice Mindfulness
Okay, so we practice Mindfulness every day... but how do we:
take charge of it,
and use it to benefit our mental health?
Throughout your day, at school, work, etc., pay attention to when you're mind is in the past, present, and future. When you return to the present, your mind is automatically attempting to practice Mindfulness (without most of the emotion regulation). In combination with Self-Compassion, we can use Mindfulness to our conscious advantage!
Aside from your mind putting a halt to obsessive and negative thoughts, that cause you to ruminate in the past or worry about the future, you can also take extra measures to practice Mindfulness on top of what your mind naturally does for you!
Now we know meditation is beneficial to mental health, but did you know you can combine Mindfulness with meditation for maximum results? Taking time to meditate while being nonjudgmental of the emotions you feel in the present moment, is practicing Mindfulness. Meditation Wind Chime.
Want an example? Every day, humans feel sleepy around nighttime (usually), and they can either choose to stay up late and feel drained the next day, or they can choose to get enough sleep for the night (this is outside of other mental or physical health issues). Humans need sleep; our minds know when we are tired, and in turn yawn and decrease our mood or energy levels.
Just like sleep, our emotions and thought patterns are always going to be a part of our lives. We can choose to regulate them by using adaptive strategies, or we can choose to "stay up late and feel drained the next day". A.K.A... using maladaptive strategies.
What To Remember When Practicing Mindful Meditation or Mindfulness:
1. Everyone's thoughts wander and drift. Don't let this discourage you! Just try to refocus your mind when you notice it's straying.
2. Change doesn't happen overnight, and anything that promises it can fix your problems overnight is not trustworthy, and most likely will only be effective short-term.
3. You don't need to make a huge life change to practice Mindfulness. All you need to do is be aware of your thoughts, able to redirect them, and able to be nonjudgmental of your emotions! Meditation can be 3 minutes, 5 minutes, or 10 minutes+! Whatever works for you.
Turns out this Mindfulness"craze" has been around longer than Mindfulness has been in small books at Urban Outfitters! This isn't to discredit those books, the attention Mindfulness is getting is great. There's no argument that the increase in Mindful awareness is such a benefit to everyone, so for those who have seen this "craze" recently, and didn't understand what everyone was talking about, now you do!
I have one of the Mindfulness books (which yes, I did get from Urban Outfitters lol) and I love it! It's so informational, and it gives tons of Mindfulness practices and meditations! This book isn't sponsored by me in any way, I just love it a lot and wanted to share! Ignore the coffee stain, I use it in the mornings a lot!
How do you practice Mindfulness? Did you know about Mindfulness before its recent increase in popularity? Let us know in the comments below!