Presently, mindfulness is acknowledged as a powerful method for enhancing mental wellness. It can improve various aspects of mental wellbeing, including reduced stress levels, regulating emotions and moods, increased self-awareness and better control over our minds and thoughts. This technique has become widely recognized as a powerful tool for enhancing our mental health.
The practice of mindfulness is now a well-known global trend. Among the most popular alternative techniques for strengthening and boosting mental health are ancient yoga and meditation practices. Numerous Fortune 500 companies directly provide mindfulness-based meditation in their workspaces to support mental health at work. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities also use this technique to reduce chronic pain and stress.
Mindfulness and the ‘Thinking disease’:
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a former medical professor and the head of the Centre for Mindfulness at the Massachusetts Medical School in the USA, is one of the most well-known figures in the mindfulness movement. He famously wrote in a book published in 2019 that “We have the potential to ignite a global renaissance catalysed by the cultivation of mindfulness and heartfulness at this critical juncture in the arc of human evolution and development.” He asserts that the cause of our misery and sorrow is a “thinking disease” that affects everyone and begins in the mind. His research and several other worldwide studies have shown a positive link between mindfulness and mental health.
What is mental health?
For us to think and perform well, our total psychological and emotional health is referred to as our mental health or wellness. We are better equipped to control the stress we feel every day and deal with any unforeseen adversity that may happen to us. Practically, we all face bad and ‘struggling’ times during our life’s journey. We often break down at those moments because we lack the mental fitness to
handle the situation. We are mostly unprepared. We could get deeply entangled in a destructive thought cycle that compromises our mental health. In fact, during such trying moments, our mental and psychological health is tested. If we have mental toughness and resilience, we can quickly come out of those situations. In addition, our mental health affects our relationships, productivity at work, and physical health.
Impact of mindfulness on our mental health:
Most medical professionals now concur that mindfulness has many benefits for good physical, mental, and emotional health. Additionally, it is used therapeutically to help people manage a variety of mental health conditions. Huge research has supported the premise that mindfulness has positive effects on our mental health, including stress reduction, emotional control, and reducing negative thought processes. It helps us even in mild to moderate cases of anxiety and depression. Research has also shown that mindfulness is helpful in quitting addictions, particularly smoking.
What is meant by mindfulness?
Mindfulness is our experience of “being present” and unbiasedly observing what is happening inside and outside us. Our deep and undivided awareness comes when we are fully conscious, aware, and focused on the “present.” This state is referred to as “mindfulness.” When we engage in mindfulness practises, we are completely alert and aware. In those moments, we are conscious of our thoughts, sensations, and emotions. When it happens, we are fully present and aware of ourselves. This level of awareness elevates one’s perception of their mental and physical well-being.
In brief, there are three crucial aspects of mindfulness:
The most important is we are in the ‘now’, which means present. Second, during those times, we are focused and aware. We are not drifting off in different ways with our thoughts and ideas. Finally, we observe things in a non-judgmental way. We accept things as they are rather than reacting, making judgements, or giving the experiences meaning. In other words, when we are in a state of mindfulness, we accept things as they are rather than taking them as we perceive them.
However, we should pay more attention to what is happening both inside and around us. The root cause of the problem is that we are mainly preoccupied with our inner stream of thoughts. We may behave aimlessly, impulsively, and restlessly when we are not fully present and conscious. We’re more prone to miss our worthwhile experiences. We experience the same thing of ‘mindlessness’ while we work, eat, walk, talk to people, and so forth; we are in a state that might be referred to as “unconscious” or “half-sleep.”
How mental health problems arise:
‘Mindless’ or ‘absentminded’ behaviour carries a heavy price. We frequently keep thinking unsettling things, worry about them, and get stuck in a cycle of them. We develop a penchant for mental stress and worry to varying degrees. When we fail to control our thoughts because we are unaware of them constantly, we may eventually experience mental health problems. As a result, we are more prone to mental health problems like persistent worry, chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.
Benefits of mindfulness for our mental health:
Unquestionably, a large body of research studies has concluded that cultivating mindfulness greatly impacts our mental health. We develop mental fortitude and fitness. Not only may mindfulness help us better manage our thoughts and feelings, but it can also let us experience more original and creative thoughts. Better emotional regulation leads to increased self-control in the face of stress and adversity. We gradually improve our capacity for attention and focus. This all enables us to manage our personal and professional life better. As we practise mindfulness, we experience more compassion, empathy, and love in our relationships. In a broader sense, we slowly and consistently improve and make a better version of ourselves.
How to develop mindfulness:
The best and simple way to develop mindfulness is through more frequent practice and immersion in the ‘present’. We must take advantage, to the maximum, of the times when we are awake and aware. To actively bring our straying thoughts back to ‘here and now’, we must make a concerted effort to be present in the moments a hand. This easy practice can help us return our attention to the present, so we should practise it regularly. This is something we should always remember in the back of our minds. We are not required to carry out any physical exercise, which needs more energy, time, and effort. If we make it a habit, then it can go a long way in practicing mindfulness.
While carrying out our routine activities during the day, we should allow ourselves to focus and remain present. Although it seems straightforward, people find it to be challenging to practise and experience because of frequent interruptions of their thoughts. Most of the time, our conditioned and habitual thinking and behaviours are at work, and we are not able to manage those thoughts. We are not expected to stop them but to observe them non-judgementally. As our capacity for mindfulness grows, we deliberately sharpen our ‘awareness of ourselves’. That is what self-awareness is.
What are the other methods of practising mind-fulness?
Besides mindfulness-based meditation techniques, there are many different ways to develop and teach mindfulness. That includes mindful breathing, walking, eating, and interacting with others. Each one of us can improve our mental health in these ways. The more we spend time on these day-to-day activities practising mindfulness; we can become more mindful. When we meditate, our minds calm down and feel at peace as we objectively observe the constant stream of thoughts that enter our awareness. Additionally, while we practise breathing-based meditation, we pay close attention to our breathing – that is, observing, inhale and exhale. The end outcome of this mental effort is “being mindful.”
When we continue to practise mindfulness and self-awareness, we begin to manage our minds and thoughts. This naturally gives us greater control over our lives and makes it simpler for us to handle challenges and difficult times that may arise at any time along our life journey. More importantly, we can bounce back from those trying situations more quickly and readily. Otherwise, we frequently “collapse,” either not recovering or recovering very slowly from those eventualities. With the use of a simple mental exercise of mindfulness, we can experience a variety of changes in our physical and mental health and well-being. It’s not ordinarily possible for us to visualize that such a simple mental exercise can majorly impact our various aspects of life.