What is the mindfulness symbol? Lessons from mindfulness

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated January 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Mindfulness has grown in popularity, and hundreds of studies have proven its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. Mindfulness has also been proven to help people living with chronic pain and substance use disorders. 

The ancient practice of mindfulness has often been described and communicated through symbols. Understanding mindfulness symbols may further communicate mindfulness practice goals to those who are starting out or have an established routine.

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Mindfulness can benefit your mental health

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness teaches you to focus on what is happening in the moment, not the past or future, without judgment. It is the act of cultivating awareness of the present, your current sensory experiences, and the environment around you. When you practice mindfulness, you may allow the future to be uncertain and the past to be completed. 

Mindfulness stems from ancient Eastern practices, notably Buddhism. Buddhist themes in modern-day mindfulness include meditation, breathing exercises, and feeling at one with the world. However, you don't have to adhere to the Buddhist faith or spirituality to be mindful. 

The benefits of mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has several proven benefits. Specifically, mindfulness can improve mental health and mental well-being. One study showed that the brains of people who meditated for eight weeks showed development in brain regions associated with learning, memory, emotion regulation, perspective-taking, and self-referential processing, such as the hippocampus. Below are several other potential benefits of practicing mindfulness regularly. 

Mindfulness lowers stress

Focusing solely on the present may allow you to release worries about the past or future. In addition, deep breathing and focus can reduce stress by allowing you to regulate your immune system and cope with challenging events. Thoughts are often a contributor to stress, so being able to reframe your thoughts and allow them to pass through your mind without judgment may reduce their impact. 

Mindfulness allows for empathy

While practicing mindfulness, you can feel observant of the people around you. You may be able to see your shared humanity with these individuals and remind yourself that all humans are connected. Through mindfulness, you may feel empathy and compassion. 

Mindfulness improves sensory awareness  

Sensory awareness may help you notice all areas of your environment. For example, sight can help you paint a beautiful picture, and sound can allow you to listen to music. Your sense of touch can connect you with sensory relief, taste can bring you the enjoyment of a meal, and scent can allow you nostalgia. Mindfulness helps you experience more of the world around you through your senses. 

Even if you are deaf or blind or experience sensory challenges, there are ways to find connections through your senses. Some people find that mindful touch is beneficial to connect with yourself, your environment, and your loved ones if you struggle to hear or see.

Mindfulness improves well-being as you age 

You can address mental health at any age. However, if you're older, mindfulness may improve your ability to retain information and stay mentally healthy. 

What is the mindfulness symbol?

The mindfulness symbol is an illustration of the concept of mindfulness. It was created by a Lithuanian graphic artist named Cibulskisa and is widely used and accepted worldwide by psychologists, spiritual leaders, and professionals. 

The mindfulness symbol involves a water droplet and its mirrored reflection. In a vertical line, two droplets are on top, with the reverse of those droplets mirrored on the bottom and one circular droplet in the center between the two sets. These droplets represent time. 

Time is often represented by horizontal lines moving from left to right or past to future. This vertical form indicates that time has stopped, representing the here and now. The two droplets on top symbolize the future as the water is dropping down. The mirrored droplets on the bottom represent the past. The center droplet represents the present, which represents the focus of mindfulness. The three together represent the concept of "as above, so below," meaning every action has an effect. 

The symbol also has a horizontal aspect: two equal rings, which look like a ripple on the water. These represent space. The middle droplet is also centered horizontally, representing the center of space and time.  

Benefits of the mindfulness symbol

The mindfulness symbol is a reminder to be more aware of your surroundings. The symbol itself can be an example of what the present moment looks like. 

You can use a mindfulness symbol in many ways and enjoy its benefits. The mindfulness symbol is open source, so there are no copyright restrictions. Below are a few ways you might incorporate it into your life: 

  • As a tattoo 
  • As a phone or computer wallpaper 
  • As a print to share around your community 
  • As a drawing to hang on your walls
  • As a coloring page for mindfulness practice
  • As a tapestry 

You can incorporate this symbol into your life in many other ways to support your mindfulness practice. Be creative and find one that works for you. 

What other symbols are used in mindfulness?

Some who practice spiritual or Buddhist mindfulness might encounter the following symbols. 

Om

Om (aum) is used in Buddhism as well as other religions. In Buddhism, it represents the body of Buddha, his spirit, and his speech.

Bell

The bell is a symbol in Buddhism. Instead of being loud, the Buddhist bell is gentle and helps monks focus on being in the present moment. In mindfulness, this may be referred to as the mindfulness bell. Setting up your mindfulness bells can remind you to be aware of the present moment. Some yoga practices use a bell after practice to remind individuals to return to the present after relaxation. 

Bodhi tree and leaf

In Buddhist history, Buddha first awakened under the Bodhi tree, a sacred fig tree in the Buddhist religion. The word "Bodhi" means "awakening." The symbol of the tree represents the enlightenment of Buddha. The leaf symbolizes each person. 

Enso

Enso is a circle, which may be incomplete or roughly drawn. It can symbolize imperfection, beauty, and mindfulness. 

Lion

The symbol of the lion in Buddhism may not be different than what a lion represents in other interpretations. The lion can symbolize bravery or taking leadership. In the context of Buddhism, it symbolizes the royalty of the Buddha and his courage in alleviating the hardships of others.

Lotus

The lotus flower symbolizes the awakening of the Buddha and how others can awaken. The flower is known to grow out of mud, which represents rising above the challenges of life or finding beauty in a "muddy" situation. 

Mala

Malas are a collection of beads ranging from 9 to 108 in number. Each bead represents a person, so each mala represents a community. No matter how much you set yourself apart, you can connect to friends, family, loved ones, or others you've encountered. The mala shows the unity of people, despite differences.

Pearl

A pearl is often considered an expensive jewel. In Buddhism, it symbolizes being rich in spirituality. It shows there can be gains from following mindfulness practices. 

Vajra

The vajra is a symbol of a club. It is meant to represent force and indestructibility. It showcases that protection can come from mindfulness and self-confidence.

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What are other concepts in mindfulness? 

Several concepts in mindfulness might be connected to the symbols people use for motivation, including the following. 

Consciousness

Being aware of your existence and the world around you is called consciousness. Consciousness can mean you're mindful of your existence and value the ability to experience the world through your eyes. One symbol of consciousness is the circum point, a circle with a dot in the center. In the alchemic system, this symbol refers to the sun.

Equanimity 

The Zen Buddhist equanimity symbol can remind you that being mindful and letting go of the past can motivate you to focus on your present. Like a water drop, live in the present moment, and learn to ride with the ripples.

Mindfulness jewelry

Some people, while not inherently religious, may get mindfulness reminders through rings, necklaces, and wristbands. Some people may use words as jewelry to remind them to live in the present moment.

Mindfulness exercises

The mindfulness symbol is used as a reminder to practice mindfulness. Part of that may include exercises you can try at home. Below are a few mindfulness exercises to try. 

The body scan 

You can use this tool to become more aware of your feelings and what's happening in your body. It is common to begin this practice by reclining on your back on the floor. Begin examining yourself from your toes to your head. Imagine energy flowing through you, rising from your feet to your head.

The energy moves slowly, taking hold of your being. As you focus on each part of your body from the ground up, notice how that part feels. Give it extra attention. See if the part of your body is tense, relaxed, or buzzing with energy. If you feel discomfort or pain, breathe as you focus on that body part and accept the feelings. Let go of any tension in your muscles in that area. 

Sensory exercises 

Ask a friend to put a few objects in a box without knowing what they are. Then, feel the objects without looking at them. Notice their shape and texture. Try to guess what the objects are based on your knowledge of touch. 

This exercise can be done with other senses, too. You can ask a friend to put items that have scents in various boxes. Use your nose to enjoy the smells and again try to guess what they are. Alternatively, you can listen to music and try to get a feel for each note and instrument in the song. You can also try to savor your next meal by taking small bites and focusing on the texture and taste before swallowing. 

Journaling 

Mindfulness often involves getting in touch with your innermost self. Journaling is one way to cultivate self-awareness. It can help you better understand how you feel and how to process your emotions. Start with a pen and paper, or find a journal that works for you. If you don't like writing, you can journal through collages, drawings, poems, or bullet lists. You can also try a graph where you fill in your moods using colored pens. 

Yoga 

It might feel easier to practice mindfulness or meditation when your body is calm. Try doing a few yoga poses before meditating to make your session more productive. Be gentle with yourself. Learning how to practice mindfulness may take time. Set aside time each day for self-care to ensure you have the energy to practice.

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Mindfulness can benefit your mental health

Find mindfulness guidance  

There are several ways you can become more mindful. You might enjoy this work on your own or seek additional support. If you're not sure how to cultivate this valuable skill, a counselor can guide you through mindfulness-based therapy practices. 

Many counselors have realized mindfulness's benefits and incorporated it into their work with clients. Mindfulness in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effectively received through online sessions. In a randomized trial with close to 500 participants, researchers reported that clients who participated in an online program of mindfulness-based CBT had fewer depressive and anxious symptoms than those without this care. 

Turning to an online therapist for mindfulness support may allow you to take multiple steps forward for your mental health. You can focus on mindfulness in your own space, which may be more comfortable than working with a therapist at their office. Allowing yourself the dedicated time of your therapy appointment to continue your mindfulness journey can also help push you forward in your other mental health goals.

If you're seeking immediate support, an online therapy platform like BetterHelp may connect you with a therapist within 48 hours of signing up. Consider reaching out to get started. 

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Takeaway

The practice of mindfulness is a proven method of improving mental health. The mindfulness symbol reminds you to live in the present and care for your sensory needs. If you want to learn more about mindfulness in a therapeutic sense, consider contacting a licensed mindfulness-based therapist for support.

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