What is mindfulness?
Definitions vary widely depending on the person explaining what mindfulness means to them and how they practice it, but I like this definition:
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. - Mindfulness.org
To me, mindfulness is the ability to quiet your mind - to shut out the busyness of the modern day world - and focus on only one thing.
What is that one thing?
That depends on you, but whatever that one thing is, it needs to help your mind slow down. It needs to be calming. It needs to help you catch your breath, pause, and forget about the full schedule, and demands on your time, that inevitably create anxiety.
Whatever that one thing is, it needs to help you focus on the present.
As a mid-Westerner, a man of faith, a veteran, and a skeptic, I didn't know what mindfulness was until a year ago. Up until I started reading about mindfulness, I thought it was Eastern Religion, sitting cross-legged on the floor, and trying to reach a state of nirvana.
It can be that - but it is so much more.
Mindfulness is taking the time to figure out how you tick, how you're wired, what gives you joy, what sets you off, what makes you rage, and what gives you energy. It is being self-reflective, identifying emotions, reactions, gut instincts, and so much more.
World religions including Christianity and Buddhism support being mindful. What they focus on might be different, but the practice of focusing on the present - not the past or future - is similar and the benefits are the same.
It is not spiritual unless you want it to be. It is what you choose to make of it and is different for every person. However, it is vital in the hectic, stressful, and unhealthy environment we find ourselves in today.
Medical science, brain science, psychology, the Harvard Business Review, various world religions, and many others support the benefits of mindfulness to mental and physical health.
Mindfulness is proven to help with a variety of issues including:
improving cognitive ability
slowing brain aging
reducing stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms
increasing a sense of well-being
helping with pain management
improving quality of life for those living with chronic conditions (1)
I practice mindfulness daily - not by sitting on the floor and saying "ohm" but by closing my eyes, slowing down my mind, breathing slowly and deeply, and focusing my thoughts on my present state. By forgetting about the past and not worrying about the future. By sensing how my body is feeling, and releasing built-up tension. By gauging how I'm feeling, my emotional state, and my anxiety level.
I help my clients learn and utilize mindfulness techniques with great success.
You should practice mindfulness, too.
You, and those around you, will be glad you did.