‘Mindfulness’ is a word we hear a lot these days, but what exactly does it mean? Find out what it is, what the benefits of mindfulness are and how you can start to practise it.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

Have you ever driven somewhere and realised when you arrived that you couldn’t really remember anything about the journey? Or have you ever eaten a whole packet of biscuits when you were planning to only have one? Or have you stayed up much later than you planned, or even all night, watching ‘just one more’ episode of a TV series? All of these are examples of mindlessness. When we live this way, we are not fully awake and not fully living our lives.

What exactly is mindfulness?

When we are mindful, we are more conscious of our thoughts, our actions and what is happening around us. We might notice a beautiful sunset or really listen carefully to what a friend is saying, rather than planning what we’re going to say next. We are also more aware of our own feelings and our thoughts. Jon Kabat Zinn, who has done a lot to make mindfulness popular, says mindfulness is: ‘Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judging.’

So we are consciously deciding what to pay attention to, we are not worrying about the past or planning for the future and we are not trying to control or stop our thoughts or feelings – we’re just noticing them.

Why is mindfulness so popular now?

For most people life is getting busier and busier. Technology means that we always have something to do and there isn’t much opportunity to just ‘be’. People are often doing two or three things at the same time: texting while watching TV, or even looking at their phone while walking along the pavement. People are working longer hours and bringing work home. All this can make us stressed, and mindfulness can be a way of reducing this stress.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Research shows that mindfulness reduces stress and depression. It can help you to concentrate, have a better memory and to think more clearly. It can also help people to manage pain better and to improve their sleep, and it can even help you lose weight because you won’t eat that whole packet of biscuits without thinking!

How to become more mindful

Mindfulness Day is celebrated on 12 September, so maybe that would be a good day to try a few mindfulness techniques and see if they make a difference. But, of course, you can try these on any day of the year.

A very simple technique that you could try right now is to close your eyes for a couple of minutes and count how many sounds you can hear. This will help to focus you on what is happening right now.

Another technique is to focus on a piece of food, typically a raisin. Instead of eating it without thinking, slow down. Look carefully at it and notice how it feels in your fingers. Smell it. Then put it on your tongue and taste it. Only then start to eat it slowly, noticing how it feels and how it tastes.

Both of these techniques force you to slow down and focus on the present moment, and there are plenty of other ideas you can find online if you want to try mindfulness for yourself. 

Discussion

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Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

I have been practicing mindfulness day by day like exercises for my mind. Working with my computer most of the time means, sometime, I am addicted to it. Besides, there are smart mobile stuffs with many appealing apps on them making you spin around with a question of what I will do now or next all the time. They have destroyed my sleep a long time till a day I have found a Korean Buddhist book, writer Hae Min, telling me to slow down in the rushing world. The book made me think more about the root of things around and live in the present with people who some times I've forgot because of 'high tech' stuffs. I read it twice and keep it beside my bed to read when I feel stress. Mindfulness is a kind of exercise for mind that I need to practise day by day because I am living in the rushing world where everybody is seems to be hurry among others. Tiredness, stress and loneliness from such world ask me to be mindful as much as I can. I often combine it with meditation for the best result I need: paying attention, on purpose, and in the present moment.
[I don't really understand the phrase " without judging". What does it mean? I will live and not judge things and people around? No criticism?]

Hello qtn03,

When you observe something without judging it means you do not try to formulate an opinion about whether something is good or bad, but rather simply see it and experience it.

An example might be the weather. A person might judge the weather, allowing the rain to make them unhappy, for example. Another person might not judge, and simply feel the raindrops on their skin.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr. Peter for your explanation. I understood what "without judging" means.
I think the idea of "without judging what you can't control" is better than just "without judging". As your example, the weather is what we can't control, that we should accept without judging, but with things that we can change or control by our ability in life as social issues, we should judge them. In another word, I feel the concept of "without judging" coming from Buddhism means "suffering" somehow that they accept all things happening to them without resistance or protestation. It's weakness and selfish for me. If bad things happened around us, would we be without judging, keep silence, and bend our head down to suffer?

It is my First time hearing about "Mindfulness". I'm looking forward to practicing some of its techniques and reading more about it.

I found out about mindfulness not long ago and I`m very interested in it. I want to add that it also helps to get rid of consequences of false teachings. That is if someone had such an experience. I`ll willngly go to this training in my city.

thanks a lot for this great article. I had a great time.

I haven't tried any mindfulness techniques, butone day I'll try to do it.

Hi All,

What an interesting article to read. I have heard lately mindfulness but I didn't know what exactly means. Now I understand what it is. As the author mentioned, we are getting busier and busier and we don't appreciate the joyful moment. I will try to appreciate what I have and every single moment.

Grateful for everything.

I have been trying some mindfulness techniques. I feft better when i was sick

Mindfulness is the act of being aware and conscious of what's happening around you. As refered to in the text, being mindful can have a plethora of positive aspects to one's life, such as reducing stress and depression, managing pain, imroving memory's capacity and many more.
Personally, I've tried the technique metioned in the article that says " Close your eyes for a couple of minutes and count how many sounds around you ". Frankly, this is my first time doing this experience and it was sort of weird. I remember I stood in the middle of the house, closed my eyes and counted how many sounds I was hearing. There were five sounds I recall and the feeling after opening my eyes was stress relieving. I was calm after the experience which helped me clear my mind and my thoughts. So, I will be doing these kinds of techniques in the futur and I recommend it to people who suffer from stress and this will assist them to focus more on the present moment and be conscious of what's happening around.

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