What Mindfulness Is Not?

Asked by Anonymous

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool that is a hallmark of most treatment modalities. It can impact people in so many positive ways, both cognitively through their thoughts and feelings and physically. There are many misconceptions about what mindfulness is and is not.

So, what is mindfulness?

By definition, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the here and now, without becoming overwhelmed by what has already happened or what is yet to come. So often, as humans, we live in the past or the future, but mindfulness is the conscious, intentional practice of shifting our focus to the moment we are living right now. Mindfulness brings awareness to what is happening in our brain, our head, and our heart without judging or labeling what is happening.

Is mindfulness just meditation?

No, while meditation is a potential practice of mindfulness, meditation and mindfulness are not the same. Meditation is a way to focus inward, relax the body and mind, and direct the mind to a place versus simply observing and being aware of what we are experiencing.

Is mindfulness just a way to relax?

No, mindfulness is not about relaxing. However, many people feel that once they are more mindful, they see increased benefits such as improved mood, a decrease in anxiety and depression, and a calming of the mind. Mindfulness is simply about learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. For example, if you are worried about something impending in your life, a mindfulness practice would encourage you to shift your focus to the here and now and not what is yet to be.

Is this really something you can practice? Or are some people just naturally good at this?

Mindfulness is absolutely something that people need to practice as our brain is adept at shifting its focus, especially when things are uncomfortable. I want you to picture your brain like a flashlight beam shining out into a dark backyard. We can only really focus on what our flashlight beam is illuminating. Mindfulness is all about recognizing that our flashlight beam has shifted to something else and gently pulling your focus back on the here and now, without judging yourself for the shift, labeling it as good or bad, or feeling defeated because the shift happened. Mindfulness is not about judgment; it is about a gentle acceptance of the here and now.

Mindfulness can seem like a complex concept, but it is simple in its efficacy and impact on your life. Practicing mindfulness every day can help build that muscle to be fully present for your life and loved ones!