A Simple Introduction To Mindfulness

By Sarah Fader |Updated August 2, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Aaron Horn, LMFT

What Is Mindfulness

Do You Need Help Focusing On The Present?

Mindfulness is a state of being in which you focus on the present moment. When practicing mindfulness, your intention is not to think about the past or the future, but to center your attention on the now. Mindfulness can help relieve various issues such as stress, symptoms of anxiety and depression, rumination, and other mental health concerns. It may also improve sleep and assist in regulating emotions. 

When practicing mindfulness, you may find yourself trying to focus on the present, yet you may be worrying about something else. This is normal, especially when first getting into mindfulness. When your mind begins to wander, don’t try to fight it, as this can result in frustration. Instead, let the thoughts flit across your mind without focusing on them. Simply notice them as they enter, and then let them go, envisioning them floating in and then out of your mind with as much neutrality as possible. Continually try to ground yourself in the present by noticing things such as how the ground feels beneath your body or feet, how your clothing feels against your skin, any scents in the air, and so on.

Mindfulness has become popularized in western culture; however, it originated from eastern practices and Buddhist philosophies. However, today, meditation and mindfulness are common techniques that many of us use to cope with daily life stressors and mental health concerns. For many, it may be a default to worry about the future or ruminate over your regrets from the past. With mindfulness, you can bring your attention back to right now and focus on the present.

Mindfulness is a practice that can occur over and over within one meditation session. Sitting meditation is one common way to practice mindfulness. In this article, we’re going to talk about the development of mindfulness and where it stands today.

The East Versus The West

Mindfulness practices started in Eastern teachings and have made their way to Western society. Mindfulness may help to reduce stress and reminds us that we only need to focus on the present moment. These practices have elements derived from Buddhism, the teachings of Buddhist monks, and Zen philosophy, and that is the genesis of where the idea of being in the moment began.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is a meditation and yoga teacher who studied mindfulness in the East and was one of the first people who brought this practice to the West. He created mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). This practice has been popularized and turned into a form of therapy, which is called mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy. These teachings and practices from Eastern cultures, philosophies, and medicinal practices and concepts have been incorporated into and transitioned to Western society.

In simplistic terms, when you’re focusing on the rising and falling of your breath, you’re learning about how to manage your thoughts and feelings. Jon Kabat-Zinn did intensive mindfulness research at the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts. He is known for body scan meditation and promotes the benefits of meditation. Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness research was considered ground-breaking by many. He showed how to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life and his research indicates just how powerful mindfulness can be for all of us. What was revolutionary about his teachings was the transition from mindfulness as a religious practice to a form of therapy.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness, And Stress Reduction

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher known for his body scan meditation he created which has been cited in books and on YouTube. He’s one of the pioneers in mindfulness and its integration into mainstream society. He taught how to practice mindfulness and mindfulness meditation in everyday life to countless students. Kabat-Zinn is unique in that he’s both an academic and a spiritual person. His wealth of knowledge in both realms helps him relate to those in academia and scientists, as well as spiritual leaders.

He is the Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is there that he founded the renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic. Since 1979, Kabat-Zinn has been helping numerous people cope with mental health issues, often with mindfulness. He saw the connection between mindfulness and stress management. He noted how practicing mindful living had an incredibly powerful impact on people’s spiritual and emotional lives. In 1995, Kabat-Zinn started the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society. He has since retired from the medical center as of 2000, and the Center for Mindfulness has expanded since that time.

Dr. Saki Santorelli took over until 2017 and helped it grow and flourish into an internally renowned institution. Stress reduction and mindfulness are thought to have an undeniable connection. People who practice mindfulness meditation and mindful living may notice the difference in their lives and continue to benefit from it.

Mindfulness Meditation And Stress Reduction

Developing a daily meditation practice is believed improve your quality of life. People who have stressful jobs but who also meditate often find their lives to be more manageable with its relaxation and calming effects. However, a meditation practice may benefit many different types of individuals. Some people may not be aware of the many benefits of mindfulness meditation. You might think, “I’m good at staying in the moment. Why do I need to meditate?” Even the calmest person may benefit from mindfulness meditation. With mediation, you find that you’re less stressed and better able to tackle the challenges of the day.

Mindfulness meditation and guided meditation may be a great way to reduce stress levels. It is common that many thoughts and emotions may come up when you’re meditating. Whether you’re engaging in guided meditations or doing it on your own, it’s natural to have random thoughts or worries. Your thoughts and emotions may be there, but mindfulness meditation is about letting them exist without trying to change them.

Mindfulness meditation is something that you can practice in your everyday life, and there are many ways to do it. You can try a sitting meditation or practice mindfulness by focusing on an object such as a tree outside. Mindfulness meditation isn’t necessarily done in any one way; it can be a versatile and personalized practice.

One way to learn about the various techniques is by reading the teachings through books. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a best-selling book called Wherever You Go There You Are. In this book, he outlines the basic practices of mindfulness meditation and shows you the value of the present moment, teaching you how to practice mindfulness.

What Is Mindfulness Practice?

You may be wondering, what is a mindfulness practice? It’s a term that is used to refer to your regular use of mindful techniques. Mindfulness practice can be as simple as taking a conscious break from technology before going to sleep and being present in the current moment instead. It may include being in the present moment while you play with your children. Regular mindfulness practice could integrate simple ways to return to the “now.”

How To Cultivate Mindfulness

Mindfulness is something that you can learn to practice in your daily life, and one way to do that is by going to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. To cultivate mindfulness in your life, it's important to consistently remind yourself to be in the present moment by training your brain to return to right now. Maybe that means finding a mantra, keeping reminders on your phone, or setting designated time to disconnect from technology.

There may be several ways to check back into the present moment depending on your needs and lifestyle. In mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, you are taught how to manage your thoughts and feelings through guided meditation. It may help people learn to cope more effectively with challenges they may be facing. When you go to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, you may be able to discuss enhancing your meditation practice and cultivating mindfulness in your daily life and making it a habit.

Practicing Mindfulness Daily

There are many ways you can integrate mindfulness practices into your everyday life. We talked about mindfulness meditation as one of them, and another may be eating mindfully. Mindful eating is one way to practice mindfulness because you can take a moment, savor the food in your mouth and become aware of how the food makes you feel with all of your senses. Mindful eating may reduce stress because you do not force yourself to rush through your lunch or place judgment on what you're eating. Mindful eating can help you nurture your body and mind in ways they need.

Guided meditation can be a great way to cultivate mindfulness. You can find these guided meditations online, on meditation apps, or through podcasts, or you can ask for suggestions from your therapist or friends who currently practice meditation. In the beginning, it may help to have somebody as a guide who can show you how to meditate and direct your thoughts rather than do it yourself, especially when you are just learning mindfulness. One of the tenants of mindfulness, which comes from Zen Buddhism, is to have a teachable heart or a beginner’s mind, which essentially means being openminded and curious about the practice.

Guided meditations are excellent tools that many may benefit from in life. Even people who are experienced meditators may benefit from guided meditation and having a person help keep you on track. With a guided meditation, it may be easier to pay attention to the technique. Guided meditation can be life-changing for many people who believe they can’t engage in the practice due to concentration issues. Meditation practice may take time, and it's likely that it will become easier the more you practice.

Do You Need Help Focusing On The Present?

Mindfulness And Therapy

If you’re experiencing difficulties in your life, mindfulness practices can be a great way to reduce stress, relieve symptoms of mental health conditions, and improve your overall well-being. For many individuals, mindfulness can be a great supplement to therapy. BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that can match you with a licensed therapist who can help you overcome any challenges you may be facing and help guide you through new mindfulness techniques and strategies.  Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or more information and learn the benefits of mindfulness.

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