Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, pioneer of modern mindfulness, defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises through intentionally paying attention to the present moment, without judgment.
Have you ever thought after stopping for a moment the hectic pace of life we lead, how quickly time passes without us even realizing it and, even worse, without enjoying it? In this hectic world we live in, we spend most of the time being unaware of what we feel, think, taste, smell…, we live in automatic mode. This has probably happened to you at some point in a conversation with another person in which you were distracted thinking about something else while the other person was talking to you, or during a family meal in which you didn’t look up from your cell phone screen.
“Science estimates that we have about 60,000 thoughts a day and most of them are negative.”
Our brain doesn’t stop still, ruminating constantly. Mainly about the future, a reality that does not yet exist, and the past, a reality that has ceased to exist. However, it is the present that is the only reality about which we can learn something, express love and other emotions, communicate, and instead, we ignore it completely. It is practically impossible to change a lived situation that is already past or to anticipate a situation that has not even happened yet, which does not make much sense. When our mind processes thoughts or emotions that have nothing to do with the present moment, we run the risk of ending up unwell, sad, anxious or end up suffering from other types of ailments or illnesses. This overactivity of the brain generates sustained stress and wears down the body.
Mindfulness: The creation of awareness
Mindfulness practice aims to be more aware of what is happening in our lives, with more purpose and intention. When we act without paying attention to it, we let ourselves drift. If we let the latter happen to us, then we allow our past history, traumas or lived experiences to push us to take those actions. Our lived experience shapes our brain, that is, the way we think and act. When we act consciously, we act with freedom, will and determination, and this will allow us to change what we would like to improve or change in our life in the way we choose, but above all it will allow us to know more about ourselves, how and what we want to feel and experience in our body. By practising mindfulness you see yourself from another perspective as if you were an observer who sees everything that happens in you and in your environment, so you become more aware of what you feel and think.
Living in the present allows us to realize what is really important in our lives, and to focus on it in a sustainable way. Numerous scientific studies show that the continued practice of mindfulness contributes to physical and mental well-being. Its main benefit is the reduction of stress and anxiety, as a result of a reduction in the level of cortisol (the ̈stress hormone ̈) in the body. And since stress tends to weaken the body’s immune system, mindfulness is also associated with improving our natural defences. Other benefits to our health include pain relief, improved sleep, even overcoming depression or addictions. Scientific studies have shown that the continued practice of mindfulness alters and reconfigures the brain circuitry, modifying the brain structure.
More benefits of mindfulness
Beyond health, mindfulness practice is associated with an improvement in our attention, self-awareness and self-confidence. By changing the way we feel or act in the direction we choose, it will seem to us that our environment has changed, that our life is fuller, with more abundance, but in reality, it is still the same in the eyes of others, what happens is that the way we perceive or understand our world both outside and inside has changed, we see hope, positivity, clarity, an illusion where we did not see it before.
Mindfulness can be practised at any time and place, regardless of whether you are with someone or doing an activity. There is a wide range of techniques and exercises that have been developed in recent decades to support those people whether they are starting the practice or not. You have probably heard of meditation and mindfulness as very similar practices. This is true in that they have much in common. The main difference is that meditation is born in a spiritual context while mindfulness is born in a psychological context.
Thus, mindfulness focuses on facilitating a state of increased presence through mindfulness in the present moment without addressing questions such as “who I am” and “the meaning of life”.