What is Mindfulness: Symbol, Definition and Practice Tips

This is the symbol of Mindfulness

This is the MINDFULNESS symbol:

This is the symbol of Mindfulness
This is the MINDFULNESS symbol

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be defined simply as the ability to pay mindful attention to the experience of the present moment with interest, curiosity, and acceptance.

The ability to stay in the present moment and focus your thoughts on what is happening in the here and now is referred to as mindfulness. It is our ability to observe what is happening in the present moment rather than thinking about the past or the future.

Mindfulness: Living in the present

We could not live without the ability to be in the present: it is the one that allows us to remember where we are going as we walk, even if along the way we have lost ourselves in a thousand thoughts.

Without Mindfulness, it would be impossible to observe and recognize one’s own experience and live in this world. However, although we believe we have conscious control of our attention, what usually happens is that we are constantly attending to thoughts about the past or the future or, recognizing only a small portion of what is happening in the present: if I like what I am experiencing, I want it to continue or if I dislike what I am experiencing, I want it to disappear.

Mindfulness allows us to recognize what is happening as it is happening, actively accepting the flow of experience as it is happening. So, even if we experience something unpleasant (which is inevitable as long as we are alive), we can save ourselves the added suffering of having to make the unpleasantness go away. To remain only with what we experience without adding anything else is what the practice of mindfulness allows.

Although mindfulness or sati is commonly associated with Buddhism, many of the world’s religious traditions use mindfulness implicitly or explicitly, as it is a basic human capacity to connect with the present. The association with Buddhism is due to the fact that it was within this tradition that a large body of practices was generated that allow to refine and deepen this capacity to very high degrees. Mindfulness or insight meditation is one of them and is practiced in a wide variety of forms.

Mindfulness in Occidental countries

During the last 30 years, the practice of Mindfulness is being integrated into occidental medicine and psychology. It is applied, scientifically studied, and therefore recognized as an effective way to reduce stress, increase self-awareness, reduce physical and psychological symptoms associated with stress and improve overall well-being.

Mindfulness means consciously paying attention to the experience of the present moment with interest, curiosity, and acceptance. Jon Kabat-Zinn, known worldwide for introducing Mindfulness into the Western medical model more than 30 years ago, founded the UMass Memorial Medical Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. There he introduced patients to the practice of Mindfulness for the treatment of physical and psychological problems, chronic pain, and other symptoms associated with stress.

This type of attention allows us to learn to relate directly to what is happening in our life, here and now, in the present moment. It is a way of becoming aware of our reality, giving us the opportunity to consciously work with our stress, pain, illness, loss, or challenges in our life. In contrast, a life in which we do not pay attention, in which we are more concerned about what happened or what has not yet happened, leads us to neglect, forgetfulness, and isolation, reacting in an automatic and maladaptive way.

Mindfulness helps us to recover our inner balance, attending in an integral way to the aspects of the person; body, mind, and spirit. By practicing mindfulness we develop a greater capacity for discernment and compassion. The practice of mindfulness opens the door to new possibilities, brings us to the here and now, invites us to live a life fully and in the present.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

The goal of mindfulness is to achieve a deep state of awareness free of judgments about our sensations, feelings, or thoughts, paying attention to what is happening inside us at any given moment.

  • Reduces stress and anxiety, while strengthening the immune system
  • Increases attention span
  • Reduces emotional reactivity and allows for greater control of emotions
  • Strengthens self-esteem and positive attitude
  • Works on emotional intelligence

Mindfulness pursues total attention to the present moment; recognize our thoughts but accept them without judgment, questioning our habitual mental patterns, our usual way of thinking. The goal is that the person can observe their thoughts with perspective, without immersing themselves in their content.

This discipline can improve the perception of pain in chronically ill patients, resulting in greater emotional well-being. The practice of mindfulness also improves the ability to concentrate and pay attention, resulting in greater efficiency when performing any task.

It is very positive to manage stressful situations and improve anxiety states as it helps reduce cortisol levels (the hormone responsible for stress) in our body.

Its continued practice favors the night’s sleep so it is very positive as a treatment for insomnia. And in general, it improves our emotional intelligence, since it allows us to face our thoughts and emotions and interpret situations with perspective, without judging and without being dragged by them.

Who can practice mindfulness?

Everyone can practice mindfulness regardless of age or condition. It is recommended to start with short sessions of about 10 minutes to get used to the practice. Exceeding the indicated time at the beginning can generate frustration by not being able to focus attention and seek evasion.

What is the best way to practice mindfulness?

It has numerous established benefits, including the reduction of anxiety, sadness, and chronic pain, as well as the improvement of sleep and the reduction of stress. Mindfulness can also help us achieve our goals, such as losing weight or starting a new project. And, from a leadership standpoint, mindfulness can help us stay centered in order to manage people or cope with external issues more successfully. Overall, mindfulness is a vital discipline to learn in order to live happy and meaningful lives.

But it is not something that comes naturally to us, especially with so many distractions vying for our attention and focus. Most of us are now addicted to technology and have lost the ability to focus our attention for extended periods of time. We are continuously confronted with information overload as we check our news feed, email, or SMS. The day passes without us even checking in with ourselves, let alone practicing mindfulness, which ironically leaves us feeling disconnected and dissatisfied.

And when we do slow down, we often feel terrible about it, as if there is some kind of rule that says we must be active at all times in order to be productive and make the most of each minute.

As a result, we become far more vulnerable to negative news, misinformation, and anxiety, all of which weigh us down both psychologically and physically. We get dissatisfied with simply being with ourselves, and we lose touch with something larger or with our inner force. By focusing on what is working for us right now, we lose our potential to construct our future intentionally.

How to introduce the practice of Mindfulness in your daily life

Most people who try to practice mindfulness quickly learn that it is difficult to stick to a regular training schedule. In light of this, I’d like to provide five recommendations that I’ve found to be quite useful in maintaining my own mindfulness training (or any other form of the training program):

Do it on purpose. It may seem apparent that you should practice on purpose, but I’ve seen people try to think their way into being more mindful by talking about it, reading about it, and listening to podcasts about it. You can’t think your way into running a 10K race, and you certainly can’t think your way into being more aware. Begin with a few minutes of practice per day and gradually increase your time. Guided meditation is one of the most effective ways to meditate on purpose. I highly recommend doing the free meditations on the Insight Timer app.

1.- Establish one day a week of Mindfulness.

Our mind is constantly working, jumping from one thought to another. So that the habit is not so difficult to incorporate, we can start by choosing a fixed day of the week to self-observe and be aware of every thought that crosses our minds.

When we notice that we are mentally in the past or in the future, let’s simply redirect all our attention to the present moment and whatever we are doing at that moment. Once you begin to feel the benefits of this practice, you can gradually include it in the other days of the week.

2.- Tie in with existing routine

A few minutes of practice every day will build your mindfulness muscle more than a long session once a week. Perhaps just do it immediately after taking a shower or just before bed or after cleaning your teeth or before breakfast. Just having a set time to do it every day makes it really easy to remember. Allow oneself the luxury of starting small. A 3- or 5-minute practice is a great place to start!

3.- Use Mindfulness in idle moments.

Instead of constantly checking social networks, or calling a friend while waiting for the bus, why not take advantage of the free minutes we have to enjoy everything around us? We can admire the sounds, the smells, the smiles of people passing by, while also connecting with our breath and the gift of being alive.

4.- Listen fully to others

Let us try to be as present as possible in our conversations, without letting our minds wander elsewhere. Let us listen to the other person without judging, without giving an opinion, and with the focus exclusively on him. Their gestures, expressions, and tone of voice tell us about their emotional state, and perceiving them helps us to be more empathetic and understanding. Let us also respond from the heart, being grateful for the gift that the other person gives us in every conversation: his time.

5.- Take a pause to breathe at some point during the day.

Do a little meditation: sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and bring all your attention to the process of breathing, inhaling, and exhaling. When your mind is distracted, bring it back to your breathing. Doing this exercise daily for five to ten minutes is enough for us to quickly identify that our thoughts are something separate from our being and that they can be observed and directed.

6.- Restart as many times as necessary

You will skip your daily mindfulness practice, despite the fact that it is important. There can be instances when you go months without practicing. Rather than beating yourself up, preserve your energy and give yourself permission to start over…and again…and again. Giving yourself permission to start afresh is the only way to keep up a meditation practice. It is critical to recognize that you will have a “consistently inconsistent” practice!

7.- Reflect on the cost of being unmindful

When you reflect on the time that we waste, the accidents that we cause, the way that we wander into rumination and worry. You know, so being unmindful if we added it all up, is not a good investment for our time and energy, and resources. So we should remember that, and that’s a pretty good motivator to actually practice mindfulness.

8.- Use awareness as motivation

Perhaps just to be more aware throughout the day, more self-aware, to wake up more and more out of that default mode dream that we’re in a lot of the time. So having a big motivation like that, obviously means that once we become less stressed and more productive, there’s that carrot there. There’s still something that’s motivating us to practice.

9.- Notice the benefits

Maybe they’re not obvious day to day. But maybe week to week, or month to month, we might start to notice that we’re a little more patient in traffic, a little more present with others, a bit more self-aware, more productive, or just somehow more alive and more present in each moment. So noticing those benefits, a really powerful thing to do.

How to practice Mindfulness at home? 6 Tips

There is a great variety of situations in which we can practice Mindfulness since there is not only one basic way to do it but several alternative versions of this practice have been developed.

In these lines we will see what are the basic principles of the practice of Mindfulness, using an example of exercise.

1.- Find a quiet space

Much of the practice of Mindfulness, especially during the early stages in which we still do not master this tool well, is based on knowing how to choose the environments that make it easier to carry out the procedure.

So, choose a place away from stimuli that can distract you. Especially, without noise. If it is also in an environment where there is a lot of vegetation and nature, that will help you, since such a place will hardly remind us of those elements of daily life that can remind us of obligations, responsibilities and, in general, that can generate stress.

2.- Sit with your back straight

Some people always practice Mindfulness sitting in the lotus position, in the manner of Buddhist monks, but this is not mandatory. In any case, it is advisable to sit in a way that favors a straight back, as this way we will not be bothered by unnecessary muscle tensions.

3.- Do controlled breathing

Breathing exercises can be a good help to start practicing Mindfulness, although when you have more practice this step will be dispensable.

Its function is twofold. On the one hand, deep and slow breaths help to oxygenate the body and relax. On the other hand, it allows you to begin to focus your attention on something specific in a sustained manner, something that will be very useful.

4.- Focus on what is happening in your body.

First of all, close your eyes. In this phase, all you have to do is focus your attention on those small events that you can notice happening in your body, one after the other, and dedicate approximately half a minute to each one of them.

For example, direct your attention to some palpitations that you feel in your neck, or to the way in which your eyes move inside your eye sockets without those movements being voluntary, and so on. Do this with about six elements that you notice.

In this way, we will be managing the attentional focus by directing it to simple stimuli, without anything else claiming our attention, no matter how important or urgent it might have seemed to us an hour ago.

5.- Expand the focus

In this phase, shift your focus of attention from bodily stimuli to life experiences of a more abstract nature. Think about them as a person not involved in those matters would. Do not judge, do not value, just think about it describing, accepting that it is part of reality.

Dedicate to each fact or experience the time that corresponds to it, according to the degree of importance that you have come to give it on previous occasions, according to how much it has come to obsess you, worry, etc. This is the fundamental part of Mindfulness since it helps us to face experiences with wide repercussions in our lives.

6.- Return to controlled breathing

This phase marks an end to the Mindfulness exercise, in a ritualized way,

What is the difference between Mindfulness and Meditation?

The concepts of meditation and mindfulness can create confusion because people usually think they are the same thing, but there are key differences between the two: mindfulness is the awareness of “something” that is happening at the moment, while meditation is the awareness of “nothing”.

To make it clearer, below we will explain in detail what each of them is, what makes them different, and which one is more convenient.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that deals with paying attention to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are happening at that moment.

Because of these characteristics, mindfulness can be practiced at any time and place, no matter if you are with someone or if you are doing some activity, in fact, it helps your participation to be fuller by being aware of the here and now, so it is a recommended practice in work environments.

The term mindfulness is more appropriate for many people because it avoids making judgments about the practice, since sometimes meditation is related to a religious doctrine or philosophy, by saying “mindfulness”, it is easier for them not to associate it with this and instead see it as a method to improve concentration.

Meditation

There is a great variety of types of meditation and the purposes of each are diverse, for example, some are aimed at developing mental clarity, others are intended to develop positive qualities such as forgiveness or compassion.

In addition, the methods used also vary, some use the body as a means to developmental well-being, as in yoga; others use sound through chanting or repetition of mantras, and the most popular is to focus on the breath to free the mind.

Another important difference is that meditation, more than a practice, becomes a discipline because of its depth. For people to really obtain its benefits, it is necessary to be more concentrated and dedicate considerable time to exercise it, unlike mindfulness, which can be carried out even while doing other activities.

Which is better, meditation or mindfulness?

Both work the mind and contribute to emotional well-being, but which is better will depend on each person and their goals. Practicing deeper styles of meditation will help those seeking to make it a discipline and integrate it into their lifestyle.

For the work environment, mindfulness is the most recommended practice because employees learn effective techniques that help them control stress and improve their mental clarity without losing concentration; in addition, it can be practiced in person or remotely.

Differences between Mindfulness and Yoga

The differences between yoga and mindfulness may not seem clear at first, but both practices are similar in many ways, and implementing them in your life will make you healthier and happier.

If you want to practice yoga or mindfulness and you do not know what is best suited to your life, we bring you the keys to choose. Both practices or philosophies are based on very similar principles, and both yoga and mindfulness are perfect for improving our health.

Yoga cannot be classified as a sport in itself, but it incorporates physical exercises, while mindfulness is a mental exercise. Here we tell you the differences and why both are beneficial for our physical, mental, and even spiritual well-being.

Leading a life that brings benefits to our health, both physical and mental, can sometimes be complicated. Nowadays, stress and anxiety are present in many people’s lives, whether it is due to work, personal or family life, or external factors.

Taking care of our health is essential to try to cope with certain situations that we cannot control. What we can do is try to take care of ourselves, incorporating beneficial practices such as these mentioned today.

These are the differences between these two techniques, which serve both to relax and to focus our mind on the really important things.

Yoga

Yoga is a practice that includes physical exercise, meditation, and controlled breathing. It is a way to find mental balance, but also to gain flexibility and strength.

Currently, yoga is very widespread, and there are different types of yoga depending on the complication of the postures in terms of flexibility and strength involved in its realization. But breath control is fundamental to achieve the correct performance of the exercises.

It is a philosophy that is widespread throughout the world and that many people, in all countries, practice on a regular basis. Its great benefits for physical and mental health are known worldwide.

It is something that can be done at home or by attending group classes. It can be learned in a self-taught way, with guided videos, or with a teacher. Depending on the time you have available, you can choose one option or another. Yoga, in fact, can also be practiced in pairs, although the idea is to already have previous knowledge, to have gained flexibility and strength, and to know more than the basic postures of this practice.

It is a practice that implies having more time available, compared to mindfulness, as we will see below.

Mindfulness

Unlike yoga, mindfulness consists of breath control through meditations, guided in principle and according to the occasion. With these meditations, the aim is to have total control of our thoughts, to become their mere spectators, without judging them or ourselves.

Mindfulness helps us to live in the present, focusing on what we are living, and stop worrying so much about the past and the future. The idea is to carry out meditations with which we will focus on breathing, for example, and let our mind rest, as well as our body. We can focus on breathing and when thoughts come to mind, simply observe them as a spectator, without judgment, and try to focus back on the breath.

Noticing the benefits of mindfulness is something that takes time. The ideal is to spend several minutes a day doing meditations, and progressively our mind will get used to it. Afterward, we can apply what we learn with this technique to other aspects of our life.

The difference with yoga is that with mindfulness we do not move our body and only focus the mind to work. In yoga, both mind and body must work together.

Both disciplines offer benefits for our physical and mental health and depending on our needs, the time we have, and our preferences, we will choose one or the other.

Mindfulness is something we will practice mostly at home, while yoga can be done in class with others. Meditations can be guided. On platforms like Youtube, we can find different types of meditations, depending on your level and preferences.

Can you practice mindfulness without meditation? 5 alternative ways

Meditation is not the only way to practice mindfulness, there are other practices that will help you become aware of your present moment.

Mindfulness is undoubtedly one of the buzzwords of the year and a trend related to good healthy habits. There are all kinds of techniques or exercises that help you do mindfulness, from workshops, retreats, books, podcasts … it seems that everyone is looking for new ways to re-educate your inner self and follow a zen style.

With the fast pace of life we lead, trying to reconcile work with family life and other responsibilities, it is normal that after all this stress comes a day when we also start to care about our mental wellbeing. After all, having our ideas in order and, thus, a serene mind, multiplies our productivity, helps creativity flow, and makes us happier with ourselves.

If you are reading this is because you are also pursuing physical and mental well-being, although there is not always enough time to meditate and disconnect from everything around us. In this case, we have good news, because you can not only practice mindfulness through meditation, here we offer you other totally effective practices.

1.- Go for a walk

Going for a walk away from urban environments, in the park or in the woods, is another activity that will help you practice mindfulness. Walking encourages purposeful breathing, walking in a different environment, and the need to “breathe fresh air”.

If you don’t have enough time to do your mindfulness walk, you can apply some tips when you are walking to work. Try to pay more attention to your breathing with every step you take, channeling energy through your feet and being aware of your surroundings, something we often take for granted. As you make your way to your destination, you’ll have a whole new perspective.

2.- Practice a yoga session

There is no doubt that flowing quickly through the postures in an ashtanga session or taking the time to master Shirshasana is a physical challenge for our bodies. But the spiritual roots of yoga-related to Hinduism and Buddhism also help us to create a balance between body and mind.

Thanks to the great importance of breathing in yoga, it helps us to focus on the present moment, but also offers balance to our body, calm and clarity to our mind, and helps us to connect with our inner self. In short, after a yoga session, you will feel lighter, liberated, and at peace.

3.- Show your gratitude

One of the best ways to appreciate your accomplishments in life is to look back on them. It’s very easy to forget that brief conversation you had with someone you didn’t know at the coffee shop, or the smile and greeting you exchanged with a neighbor on your way home. All of these small interactions complement each other, having a chain reaction that leads to feelings of gratitude and positivity.

Don’t let these moments slip away from you. You can jot them down on your notepad when you have a moment to yourself. Writing down these kinds of everyday anecdotes will help you process them, appreciate them, and be aware of the little details around you.

4.- Help someone without being asked

Taking time to help others have a positive experience is one of the most valuable things you can do, and it’s also something that is very easy to accomplish.

It will help you to be more aware of how you relate to others and therefore be more responsible for how you treat them – there’s nothing better than making someone else happy!

5.- Color your life

We are seeing more and more coloring books created especially for adults. Considering the stress-reducing benefits of painting, it’s no wonder that many people find a great sense of well-being in this type of activity.

Art therapy is nothing new and it is also very accessible to anyone. Painting and coloring not only help to achieve an overall sense of calm, but it requires keeping the mind focused on this activity and for many, it is a feeling of childlike nostalgia.

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