Mindfulness has been a buzzword lately. The term gained much popularity in the field of medicine, behavioral and social sciences, and education in the last decade for its many benefits in enhancing physical and mental well-being.
So, what is this hype about mindfulness? And why should we incorporate it into our daily lives?
The term Mindfulness originated from ancient Buddhist traditions and found its way to the Western world in the early 1950’s. Mindfulness is simply waking up to one’s surroundings and living in harmony with what arises in our day-to-day life.
A more modern definition of mindfulness states, “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and without judgments” (Kabat-Zinn, 1990).
- paying attention ~ putting one’s attention to a task, person, situation, etc.
- on purpose ~ setting an intention around the task
- non-judgmentally ~ with a particular attitude
These are the three essential components of practicing mindfulness ~ attention, intention, and attitude. But, why should we practice these?
Behavioral scientists have noted that practicing mindfulness decreases stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhances pre-frontal functioning. More importantly, it increases awareness, attention and attunement to the surroundings, and makes individuals less likely to react negatively, both internally and externally. A lesser known benefit is that individuals practicing mindfulness regularly tend to become more compassionate and non-judgmental towards themselves and others over time.
Try it for yourself. This remarkably simple exercise trains your awareness and attention and is refreshing and relaxing at the same time.
- Choose your Breathing Anchor (Duration 5-10 minutes)
- Sit with your back straight and your body relaxed, resting your hands gently on your knees, and close your eyes. Notice what it feels like to breathe in and out.
- Now put one finger under your nose and feel your breath going in and out. Can you feel it?
- Next, place your hand on your chest, over your heart. Can you feel your hand moving when you breathe?
- Now place your hand on your belly and feel the movement of your breath.
- Notice where you feel the movement of your breath most easily. Is it beneath your nose, at your chest, or your belly?
- Whichever place you choose, that will be your anchor. Now lightly rest your attention on your anchor and see if you can keep your body relaxed at the same time as you breathe in and out. Simply practice this for 2-5 minutes, returning to your breath anchor whenever you attention wanders.
(Adapted from Mindful Games by Susan Kaiser Greenland)
Next time you feel stressed, anxious, or out of your element, consider trying this mindfulness strategy as a brain break.