What Does Mindfulness REALLY Mean?

The concept of “mindfulness” can be a little confusing for many, including myself.

I recently got into an in-depth conversation with a friend about all of the subjective meanings of the term “mindfulness”. We both had our own take on what it means and how it should be used for a calmer and more enriching life.

After some going back and forth and some very thoughtful points we realized we could simplify the definition to mean one thing for us:

Mindfulness is simply intentionally paying attention to something.

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One of the reasons the mindfulness movement has gotten such momentum in the last decade is that we are multi-tasking more than ever and we are feeling the negative effects of constantly switching gears.

While our brain can technically only focus on one thing at a time, the rate at which we transition from thought to thought is staggeringly high for too many people, especially kids.

Increased screen usage and a faster paced life are two major contributors to this epidemic.

Think about those times in life when you feel overwhelmed or you feel like you cannot cope. In general, your brain is in overdrive as you are focusing on many things at the same time. This can quickly drain our limited mental energy and greatly affect our overall well-being.

By embracing mindfulness, and harnessing WHAT we want to be mindful about, we can slow down our thoughts, organize our minds, and lead calmer more productive lives.

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Think about a busy week where you have the hustle and bustle of your work schedule, family life, friends to catch up with, chores to finish up, and leisure activities you want to prioritize.

Your to-do list may feel out of control as you scatter to get everything done. You may spend so much energy going back and forth between everything in your schedule that you lose the ability to feel grateful, or you may forget to really hone in with your kids or your studies.

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Whatever it is that’s causing those feelings of overwhelm CAN be your mindfulness focus. It’s the idea of spending a concerted effort to focus on only one thing at a time, for a set period of time, in a meaningful way.

While you’re doing the dishes, focus on the dishes. When you’re making dinner, focus on the dinner. When you’re reading to your child, focus on your child and the story. When you’re talking to your spouse, focus on their face.

This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours on each priority; even just a few minutes at a time can be enough to calm that racing mind and ensure a more mindful life where you are PAYING ATTENTION more to the things you WANT to be paying attention to and getting more out of the more mundane moments of your life.

Remember my previous blog on a MILLION MINDFUL MOMENTS! All it takes is a deliberate moment taken every 30 minutes for a lifetime of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is mostly about INTENTION. Going about your day, moment by moment with intention and focus.

My friend pointed out that she NEEDS some time to just let her mind wander and meander through thoughts and concerns. This is definitely something many people need to be their best selves and it’s when creativity is spurred. But a mindful life would involve setting time aside (just a few minutes a day can do wonders!) to meditate, brainstorm, and let the creative juices flow.

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You don’t necessarily want these thoughts to come about while you are texting with a friend or playing with your child. You are once again transitioning from task to task and this can wear you out faster than you realize! Plus it takes away from the inevitable joy of paying attention to loved ones and cherished activities.

With all of this said, YOU are the only person who can determine the right mindfulness practice for you.

To my friend’s point, it IS a rather subjective topic and means different things to different people. I previously wrote a blog on the difference between mindfulness and meditation, mostly for myself to sort out the differences. Which there really aren’t that many depending on who you ask.

Mindfulness and meditation are both about slowing down our thoughts and leading a richer inner, and outer life.

What is YOUR definition of “mindfulness” and how to you apply it to your day to day life?

Good luck and HAPPY MINDING!

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