To one degree or another, we are all mindful.

It is impossible to live a life without having moments of focused attention and attunement. However, those moments can be rarer than we like to admit. It is easy in the busyness of daily life to move from one thing to the next without investing our full attention.

Of course, cultivating mindfulness requires purpose and a commitment to self-awareness and presence.

The American Psychological Association has called mindfulness “… a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.” (1)

This highlights the two key components of mindfulness. The first is paying attention to our experience of what is happening, and the second is accepting whatever arises without judgment.

Being Present and Aware

Being Present and Aware

Awareness is the piece of mindfulness that is an inborn ability. We are all capable of noticing what is happening and sensing emotions and thoughts that arise.

Sometimes what we are experiencing forces itself upon our notice. In fact, intense situations create strong emotions or physical reactions that we can’t help but acknowledge.

More often, our thoughts and emotions run in the background on autopilot. For instance, our minds may jump from one idea to the next without us realizing we’ve wandered out of the present moment. Also, our emotions can be subtle, or we may use distraction techniques such as scrolling through social media or working long hours to avoid facing our feelings.

While we are all capable of being attentive and aware, we do not all do it to the same degree or with the same level of success. In particular, advances in technology and the pace of modern life have contributed to an environment that encourages us to be distracted by dealing with a constant flow of information.

Mindfulness techniques help us hone our attention and focus on our present experience. The effect of attention training is a big part of why mindfulness leads to improvement in memory and creativity. (2)

Becoming aware of what is happening and how it impacts us physically, emotionally, and spiritually is the first step in mindfulness.

Acceptance Without Judgement

To be truly mindful, it is not enough to just be aware of what we are experiencing. In fact, the second and equally necessary piece to mindfulness is acceptance. Becoming more aware of what you are feeling without the skill to accept it for what it is can create unnecessary distress. (2)

The two parts of mindfulness go together and are critical to experiencing its benefits.

It is normal to want to ignore or try to change difficult thoughts or feelings. No one wants to feel sad, fearful, or disappointed. However, these emotions and their accompanying thoughts and experiences are a normal part of being human, and the more we try to escape them, the more powerful they can become. (2)

In addition, practicing acceptance is simply acknowledging what is.

Instead of labeling what we experience as good or bad or impossible to deal with, mindfulness notices and accepts. However, this is not denial or passivity but rather a healthy response that allows for better emotional regulation and decision-making. (2)

Mindfulness asks us first to notice what we are experiencing, then to not fight it, but accept what is happening, opening the door for us to experience and then move past it fully.

What Science Has to Say

Research has consistently supported the benefits of mindfulness for well-being. (3)(4)

Regular practice has been shown to:

  • Decrease stress and anxiety
  • Boost memory
  • Aid in pain control
  • Enhance emotional regulation
  • Increase relationship satisfaction
  • Improve cognitive flexibility
  • Prevent burnout at work
  • Increase productivity and focus

Mindfulness training is now used in a wide variety of settings, from healthcare clinics to the military, to build resilience and improve well-being. Everyone can benefit from being more mindful.

As we become more mindful, we will experience greater levels of wellness and fulfillment in every area of life.

Everyday Mindfulness

The benefits of mindfulness come only with daily practice. Of course, it’s not a quick fix or a magic pill. In fact, it’s a way of living fully present in your experience.

There are no shortcuts, but there are many ways to cultivate an attitude of awareness. For instance, mindfulness meditations, daily pauses to check in with what we are feeling, or journaling are proven ways to build mindfulness.

It is also possible to cultivate informal mindfulness simply by setting the intention of being fully present and open in everything we do. Whether washing the dishes or driving in traffic, we are mindful when we set aside distractions and focus on the present with acceptance.

Living a full life means enjoying the good and being equipped to handle life’s inevitable rough patches. As we become more mindful, we will experience greater levels of wellness and fulfillment in every area of life. In addition, learning to be aware and engaged with whatever arises and having an attitude of acceptance sets us on the path to better mental, physical, and emotional health.