A lot of people are jumping on the Mindfulness bandwagon. What’s it all about, and how can it help you lead a happy, productive, and fulfilling life?
How Mindfulness Began
In 1979, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School where he incorporated Thich Nhat Hann’s Buddhist teachings on Mindfulness and developed his famed Stress Reduction and Relaxation program. Kabat-Zinn removed the Buddhist origins from his course, minimizing any connection between Mindfulness and religion, and framed it in a more scientific context. His course helps patients deal with stress, pain, and sickness by making them aware of each moment as they experience it. Today, Mindfulness courses are offered in many different countries.
Mindfulness as a Way of Life
If you’d like to practice Mindfulness, there are certain qualities you’ll need to incorporate it into your daily routine. If you’re used to being self-critical, you’ll want to stop any judgmental voices that intrude upon your intention to live mindfully. You’ll also need to avoid comparing yourself with others. That said, there’s no perfect way to live mindfully. Bring your own personality into the picture, and don’t strive for perfection or worry about what others think. Do what’s right for you.
Most importantly, display a beginner’s mind, a mindset of openness and eagerness devoid of preconceptions. Keep your mind open and receptive like a child’s, and you will progress in your mindfulness practice. The most important aspect of keeping and nourishing this sense of wonder and joy in life is a sense of perpetual curiosity. In their book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, authors Grazer and Fishman speak of the benefits of maintaining a childlike curiosity in everyday life. People who espouse Mindfulness show curiosity about everything, such as asking themselves why a person is reacting to them a certain way; understanding a problematic situation in their lives; or pondering the advisability of starting a new venture, such as a career or lifestyle change.
Mindfulness can help people enjoy life more because they’re truly experiencing every moment, rather than living in the past, which they can never retrieve, or ruminating about the future, which they are not sure they have. Similarly, it helps with relationships, anger management, and the stresses they encounter each day. It also helps children control their tempers and achieve better academically.
People who are mindful see things as they are in the present. That’s not to say they have to like everything that’s happening around them or that they should tolerate injustice or avoid trying to right the wrongs they see around them. It simply means that they are willing to see things as they are, accept what is, and proceed from there.
Another similar benefit of Mindfulness is that people who embrace it begin to see themselves as sufficient the way they are. Think about the words of the famed Mr. Rogers, the children’s beloved TV personality: “I like you just the way you are.” It doesn’t mean not trying to be the best you can be. Rather, it means doing the best you can and accepting yourself fully with your positive traits and shortcomings.
How Mindfulness Helps You Physically and Emotionally
Mindfulness offers you a variety of ways to incorporate it in your daily life. Among them are Mindful Meditation, although you may practice any form of meditation you like. You may also find Mindful Yoga, eating, and walking a pleasant adjunct to your daily routine. These activities ground practitioners in “the now” and enhance their life experience immeasurably. Mindful eating can help you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Because you eat slowly and mindfully, you will enjoy your food more and be less likely to overindulge.
Mindfulness also helps you respond rather than react by offering effective communication skills. In line with this, mindful communication asks you to choose assertive ways of talking with others instead of interacting with them passively or aggressively. Assertive communication carries the benefit of honoring your own thoughts by expressing them clearly to others. It also helps show respect for other people even though you may see things differently than they do.
Assertive communication asks you to be specific in your requests rather than general. It’s more effective to say, “When you didn’t invite me to the party, I felt left-out,” rather than “Why do you leave me out all the time?” The first response reflects the speaker’s feelings without sounding negative like the second one.
It’s also beneficial to use “I-statements” rather than using “you-statements” when you speak to someone. Instead of saying, “You treated me rudely,” it’s more helpful to say, “I felt hurt and embarrassed when you disagreed with me in front of the group.”
If you’re speaking mindfully, you’ll also make it a priority to validate and empathize by showing that you grasp another person’s perspective. In doing this you’re showing compassion for the other person. For example, if someone feels you weren’t paying attention to him or her, you might say, “I can imagine how hurt you felt when you thought I was ignoring you.”
Mindfulness and Parenting
Proponents of Mindfulness live so that the practice permeates every area of their lives. For one thing, it helps parents raise happy, responsible children. My book, Parenting Mindfully: 101 Ways to Help Raise Caring and Responsible Kids in an Unpredictable World, (Amazon link) promotes the idea that following the principles of Mindfulness can help parents raise children who become school smart, street smart, and caring human beings. If parents want to promote character traits such as compassion, kindness, and respect for themselves and others, using Mindfulness techniques will help foster these positive qualities in children. Mindful parents model positive behavior for their children so they can relate better to their peers, succeed academically, become more productive, and lead more fulfilling lives.
Mindfulness and Children
Currently, many schools incorporate Mindfulness in their curricula to help students of all ages deal with the stress they face in school, at home, and in their social networks. It’s been proven that Mindfulness training in schools helps cut down on anger, confrontations, conflicts, and bullying. It can also help students perform better in the classroom.
My book, Helping Kids Live Mindfully: A Grab Bag of Classroom Activities for Middle School Students, helps students use Mindfulness on a daily basis in school and at home. Practicing Mindfulness gives children the tools to cope with anger, frustration, and stress, while helping them learn how to talk and listen to get positive results. It’s important for parents and extended family members to participate in programs like this with their children to help them use Mindfulness in the many different situations they encounter daily, such as getting along better with family members, dealing with disappointment, and using technology wisely.
Mindfulness in Every Day Life
Based on Mindfulness teachings, my forthcoming book, Help Yourself!: 65 Magical Meditations to Soothe Your Mind, Body and Spirit, targets readers who want to get in touch with their spiritual selves by tuning in to their innate healing powers. Sixty-Five Magical Meditations advises using color meditation to help readers heal their minds, bodies, and spirits. It also offers manifestations and affirmations to boost the power of the meditations. Whether you choose to meditate using colors, a mantra, or another method that appeals to you, it’s helpful to be mindful in doing the practice to ensure good results. If your mind wanders, go back to your mantra or focus point.
In conclusion, Mindfulness is an excellent way to improve your quality of life. It brings you more joy in everyday life, whether you’re involved in a mundane task or an exciting one, like following your passion. It helps you relate to those around you more effectively and avoid needless conflicts. It enhances and amplifies ordinary and extraordinary experiences and makes you feel truly alive. Most of all, it keeps you grounded in the present, which is all any of us have. The past is gone. The future is yet to come. The now is paramount.
About the Author: Dr. Catherine DePino wrote seventeen books about Mindfulness, bullying, writing/grammar, and women’s issues. She earned a doctorate from Temple University and spent many years as a high school teacher and department head in an urban school district and later as an adjunct assistant professor at Temple. Visit her website at www.catherinedepino.com and her current publisher’s website site at https://www.tckpublishing.com