What is Mindfulness?
In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, "Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally." Mindfulness is being fully present in the here and now, being in touch with what is going on inside us and around us.
Meditation is a popular mindfulness tool. It offers a simple and effective way to practice mindfulness.
Most of us have had the experience of learning something new, like playing tennis or learning how to speak French. In the beginning, it’s challenging and requires a lot of concentration. However, over time you improve and it becomes easier.
Mindfulness works in a similar way. We know from the latest research in neuroscience that we have the ability to create new neural pathways in our brain. That means our brains can literally transform through experience.
Mindfulness is mental exercise — a workout for your brain. And like a muscle, these neural pathways get stronger and more effective over time. This leads to dozens of health benefits, including less worry, fear, anxiety and stress — oftentimes the root cause of unhappiness, illness and disease.
Mindfulness has its origin in ancient Buddhist meditation practices from 2,500 years ago, but it’s increasingly taught in a secular form.
The founder of modern day mindfulness is Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, and is thought of as the man who brought mindfulness to the United States. He has been practicing mindfulness for 47 years and founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970s.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Successful companies around the world like Google, Nike, Apple, HBO, Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Aetna, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs are practicing mindfulness. Even Harvard Business School includes mindfulness principles in its leadership programs.
The past 30 years have seen exponential growth in research examining mindfulness and meditation, scientifically validating numerous health benefits.
Recent studies show that mindfulness:
- Reduces perceived stress
- Reduces pain, anxiety and depression
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases focus, productivity and mental clarity
- Increases optimism and creativity
- Increases resilience and emotional intelligence
- Improves communication and decision-making
- Boosts immunity
- Improves sleep
- Improves overall physical and emotional wellbeing
Mindfulness doesn’t prevent conflict or difficult issues coming up. But when challenges arise, mindfulness helps you develop the inner resources to help you navigate with more ease, comfort, and grace.