Mindfulness for better self-care and discovering a deeper sense of self
Mindfulness is not something you have to “get” or acquire. It is already within you—a deep internal resource available and waiting to be reawakened and used in the service of learning, growing, and healing.
Mindfulness is a basic human quality, a way of learning to pay wise attention to whatever is happening in your life. Mindfulness is a meditation practice, a systematic method aimed at cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Mindfulness helps you experientially learn how to take better care of yourself by exploring and understanding the interplay of mind and body. It mobilizes your own inner resources of coping, growing and healing.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being as fully aware as one can be on purpose of whatever is happening in the present moment, without filters or the lens of judgment. Put simply, mindfulness consists of cultivating awareness of the mind and body and living in the here and now.
All of us spend most of the time rehashing the past, reliving memories, or rehearsing the future, making plans and going over them again and again but not paying attention to the only moment we have—the now. Often we get so involved in the past or the future that we totally miss the present, the moment where our lives actually occur.
Has the following happened to you?
- Taken a shower so lost in thought that you did not feel the water?
- Driven somewhere on automatic pilot so lost in thought that you are not sure of what streets or how many red lights?
- Eaten something while reading the paper or doing work, not really recalling the taste of the food.
By learning to appreciate the present, rather than constantly focusing on the past, the future, or frustrating fantasies of how things “should” be, you can begin to experience a greater sense of peace with your current circumstances, even when those circumstances are less than optimal.
Why is Mindfulness Helpful?
• More Insight into Life By taking a mindful perspective, mindfulness practitioners observe life’s experiences but are not caught up in them. Practitioners have the ability to find more clarity about what is happening in their minds and in their lives.
• Enhanced Problem Solving Meditators can slow down and investigate their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The process of mindfulness enables responding to difficult situations rather than habitually reacting to them.
• Improved Attention Mindfulness improves the ability to focus and pay attention. It improves concentration. Because practitioners are less distracted, they are able to accomplish tasks and reach goals.
• Greater Enjoyment of Life Mindfulness helps people to become more aware of pleasant experiences previously unnoticed. By slowing down and being more in the present moment, you can enjoy more of life’s gifts.
• Less Negativity With greater equanimity, mindfulness practitioners break away from negative thinking patterns many people have. Meditators are able to treat themselves with a greater sense of kindness and self-care.
Does Mindfulness Work?
Scientific research has shown that mindfulness helps with the following conditions:
Stress – pressures related to work, school, family, finances, illness, aging, grief, uncertainty about the future, and just feeling “out of control.”
Medical Conditions – including chronic illness or pain, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, asthma, GI distress, skin disorders, and many other conditions.
Psychological Distress – including anxiety, panic, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
Prevention and Wellness – learning the “how” of taking good care of yourself and feeling a greater sense of balance.
Many people find the best way to start or enhance a mindfulness practice is to enroll in a course. A course provides instruction, structure, and support.
For self-study, there are hundreds of apps that focus on mindfulness and meditation. Some of the most popular ones are Insight Timer, 10% Happier, and Headspace.
Michael Burnham received training from the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness and was credentialed to teach Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 2015. MBSR is the most widely researched mind-body medicine in the world. Currently over 70 articles appear monthly in professional journals presenting the results of studies based on MBSR. Michael has practiced mindful meditation for 40 years.