Do you find yourself scrambling through your everyday tasks? How about always forgetting your house or car keys? Or perhaps, you find yourself having reached the end of your day without taking notice of the little things that make you feel happy?
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” – Sharon Salzberg
If you find yourself in the situations above, it’s time to practice mindfulness. It seems to be a very philosophical concept—and it is—but applied in the right place, and the right time, it can help you live a more stress-free and self-paced life.
So, let’s sift through and deconstruct the meaning of mindfulness. The few minutes you spend reading this will go a long way toward helping you develop mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being “in the now.” It is not living in the regrets of the past, nor the promise of the future. Being in the now means grounding yourself to a certain reality that there are both feats and failures—that they are facts of life that must be accepted. Life has its pitfalls and shortcomings, no matter how much you try to avoid them.
Being in the now involves acceptance of all life’s choices and the consequences of those choices. It should not surprise us that people who don’t practice mindfulness end up frustrated and are more likely to experience clinical depression. Even for people who undergo therapy for their mental health issues, one of the most successful behavioral modifications is being mindful. With or without mental health conditions, we all can change our mindset even without drastically changing any facets of our lives.
- Mindfulness is taking good care of yourself. Self-care means floating with the tide and not struggling against the current. It also means being aware of where you are and how you are — knowing that where you are right now and where you want to be are two different things. Mindfulness is being aware of the gulf between where you are, where you want to be, and how you can bridge that gap.
- Mindfulness is self-love or seeing and embracing the most wretched parts of yourself. As eastern philosophy dictates, there is always the balance of black and white—the yin and yang. The ugly and the beautiful, the pain and the happiness, and death and life all make sense when beheld together.
- Mindfulness can be found in the most mundane of things, like breathing, sipping your cup of coffee, or strolling around your home and taking notice of the little things. Mindfulness is slowing down from the rapid pace of life. We tend to multi-task and finish as many things as we can at the same time, but we sacrifice the quality of life over quantity of output and become overwhelmed with our to-do list without “minding” what’s going on within us.
- Mindfulness is appreciation, and with that, self-appreciation. We become aware of what’s within and what’s outside of your psyche.
- Mindfulness is an awareness that the glass can be both half-empty and half-full. It’s about taking into consideration what we have and don’t have—and not desperately chasing what makes us feel empty. We can appreciate what we have within and around us and not become blindly obsessed with acquiring things that seem impossible to reach.
- Mindfulness means grounding yourself to your reality. You don’t need everything to achieve self-actualisation, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You don’t necessarily have to chase things that are not there, or cannot be there, for now. Mindfulness is acceptance, and with acceptance comes healing.
It is our nature as human beings to strive to be something more; it is natural to aspire to attain more than what we already have. But it is the same desire that makes us the worst version of ourselves, to ourselves. This harsh approach in pursuit of our self-satisfaction, ironically, hinders our happiness. Whenever we feel that the present is not conforming to our wishes and desires, we may become depressed.
We will always have beliefs about ourselves and how we relate to the world. Mindfulness makes both our wishes and beliefs grounded in reality. At times, or most of the time, our hearts and souls fly out-of-touch with the reality we are facing. Not being mindful results in developing addictions and other forms of escape mechanisms. It is in these sorts of escapes that we end up digging ourselves even deeper into the dark hole of depression.
Escapism is the opposite of mindfulness. We escape reality and become numb to the wonders of life. Instead of confronting our reality, we seek to escape, and we waste time pursuing that escape—time that we could use to resolve the issues that made us want to escape in the first place.
Benefits of Mindfulness
For starters, mindfulness has several advantages. First, it suppresses all the excesses in life—excess ambition, excess self-harm, and excess escapes from reality. Excess ambitions drive us to distraction. Excess self-harm encourages analysis-paralysis. Excess disconnection from reality alienates us within ourselves, but you can handle all of these excesses—by living in the now. When you are mindful, you are grounded in reality and can experience the perfect mix of calm and happiness without being inappropriately over-excited nor anxious about the future.
Mindfulness helps us reflect to find the answers to our most pressing questions: Why am I not enough? Why are things like this? Why are the people around me like that? Why is life so hard and complicated?
All the why’s in our mind will boil down to this response: “Because life is like that, and I am like this. There are things I can change, and I can stop trying to control things that will never change.” Once you can sincerely tell yourself that—and believe it—your mental paradigm will change, and your point of view will change—even if things inside of you and in front of you did not change at all. Mindfulness provides a sense of empowerment, and the shift in your attitude will go a long way toward improving your outlook in life. But mindfulness isn’t exactly the answer to these questions.
- Mindfulness frees us from the perpetual overthinking that usually paralyzes our mind when it comes to considering the fraught issues that plague our everyday life.
- Mindfulness is a practice of constant self-evaluation through simple rituals such as thoughtful eating, holding conversations, working through a challenging task, and even simply resting in place. This constant self-evaluation will make us aware of where we are, how we are doing, and how others are doing.
- Mindfulness will make the simplest tasks pleasing and rewarding because it unburdens us from the typical worries that we tend to agonize over during the day. Taking your first truly mindful sip from that morning cup of coffee just might taste better than any you’ve ever tasted!
When mindfully commuting to work on the train—a trip you’ve made multiple times—you may suddenly notice you are surrounded by people from all walks of life, and for the first time, you recognize them as fellow human beings, with struggles, thoughts, dreams, and fears, just like you. Those little realizations will spur more ideas and questions than you may be comfortable having, for the first time in a long while.
You will find comfort and solace in routine and savor every moment. Mindfulness will give you a new outlook on life because it means being happy, not just content. Contentment means merely being satisfied with the status quo while being happy means welcoming progress and growth. Progress, if pursued mindfully, won’t lead to analysis-paralysis. Instead, progress becomes a motivation toward a better way of life and a better self.
Having a sense of resiliency and agency is one of the many benefits of mindfulness. You will become resilient because you limit yourself to the things you can control and focus your energies on healing, self-care, and self-love. Mindfulness will allow you to “budget” your limited energies for things that are more worthwhile than worrying, wallowing, self-blame, or blaming others and circumstances that are beyond your control.
Mindfulness in Practice
There are many ways to become mindful. One is the pacing and savouring of routine, and another is to change your way of thinking. You need a mindful mindset.
The pacing and savoring of routine is a significant prerequisite to attaining a mindful mindset. Practicing mindfulness means appreciating the self—and the other.
By finding the best in the least, and finding the beauty in mundane things, you will start to notice and appreciate the little things in life. The freckles on your coworker’s face, the orange rays of sunsets, or the amount of sugar and bitterness you taste in your coffee. You appreciate and heighten the five senses. It is finding the relevance in both scarcity and excess that you develop your sense of mindfulness.
Mindfulness occurs in holding thoughtful, meaningful conversations with your peers. No matter how superficial your colleagues might have seemed to be, you start to reflect on how and why they are talking about these events and people. You deconstruct the meaning of words and facial expressions. You begin to truly live life, noticing the details and appreciating their beauty, no matter how mundane they might be. Thus, your life gains momentum in both meaning and productivity or “meaning-production.”
All of these will combine to create that “mindful mindset.” Once you practice the mindful actions, your thoughts will start to change. They will erode in such a way that they first become chaotic, but then will settle down to a rearrangement of paradigms. The paradigm within you starts to change, and the meaning-production takes place.
Meaning-production comes in every step of the mindfulness process. It is a continuous pursuit of happiness. You’ll be fine—as long as you live in the moment. And living in the moment means embracing one’s monsters as well as one’s angels.
The mindful mindset will also challenge your beliefs, stereotypes, and prejudices. These prejudices will convert themselves into understanding—especially the prejudices you have against yourself. These stereotypes will transform into self- and other- love and appreciation.
Mindful deeds manifest themselves after you have attained a mindful mind. A fully mindful individual can only come into being after succeeding at these three—action, thinking, and deeds. The mindful action comes as a result of mindful thinking. Mindful thinking will translate into mindful deeds—and the process repeats itself. Pretty soon, you will have a positive feedback loop of mindful actions such that it becomes an unconscious part of your behavior.
Don’t be impatient with yourself if you cannot practice mindfulness instantly. It is a process of self-grounding, self-love, and self-appreciation that will translate into your approach toward other people. Mindfulness is a process that is practiced every day, and you must continuously spar with your beliefs and prejudices. To succeed, you must turn away from your hatred, your sorrows, and your self-destructive tendencies.
Mindfulness does not mean that the sorrows and the negative energies will go away, though. It means that you embrace and accept things as they are, and take action if you still can. If not, don’t fret. Negativities are there to give us lessons, and they make us appreciate that what we have can be lost.
Live for Today
To wrap up, the meaning of mindfulness is to “live in the moment” or “in the now.” Living in the now is an enriching experience if you allow it to be. Welcome the mindfulness practice into your life. You will finally notice your keys—and never forget them.
You will never scramble through your daily round ever again because you will be able to pace yourself and live in the moment. You will find yourself accepting your past and your future by working with what you can today. Being in the right place at the right time is not a matter of being where you want to be, but loving where you are.