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What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying attention to what is going on around us in a way that allows us to respond rather than  react. In addition, it is a quality of being still on the inside and recognizing that this quality is always available, even when our life or circumstances feel out of our control and chaotic. You can be mindful, aware, or even pay attention to everything in our experience including anything we experience through our five senses, as well as our thoughts and emotions.

Practicing mindfulness gives numerous benefits including:

  • Increases awareness
  • More working memory
  • Self-insight and awareness
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased compassion and empathy
  • Increased control over automatic behaviors
Brain diagram without text

Source: Vectorized in CorelDraw by Mysid, based on the online edition of Gray’s Anatomy; Author: Mysid, arrows were added by Was a bee

Changes in your brain

Scientists have researched how mindfulness effects the brain. Scans show changes in the brain in the prefrontal cortex. It can be seen in blue in this diagram. This area is in the front of your brain and controls body regulation, emotional regulation, self-awareness, and fear modulation.

Practicing

If you wish to practice mindfulness, you must have direct involvement of one of your 5 senses. An anchor can help as your object of attention and it is what can draw you back to practicing when you become distracted. A mindful posture is the beginning of focusing. It includes facing forward, having your back upright, stillness, quietness, being relaxed yet alert, and letting your eyes close. You will become distracted. You simply should notice distractions and let them pass. Don’t start dwelling on these thoughts. You can try to focus on the simiplicities of sound, breath, movement, thoughts, emotions, and other simple things. 

For mindfulness to work, we must really try it. And in the beginning, it might seem weird or pointless. Furthermore, keep in mind that everyone experiences things in different ways. If we don’t try it, we can’t determine if it is useful for us or not. All the things you were asked about are the things that practicing mindfulness can help you with.

Other articles in this series:  Mindfulness Series: Understanding Our Connection to Others

 

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