We often think of health and wellness as a means of honing our physical self by improving strength, flexibility, and cardio, along with watching the food and other substances we put in our body. But the concept of holistic wellness involves looking beyond the mere physical self, recognizing that mental wellness is an equal, if not more important, a facet of our overall health.
After all, it’s our mind that convinces our body to get to the gym before work, to keep pushing when we’re tired. It’s our mind that refuses to give up on the desire to better ourselves.
But in the hectic, hyper distracting world we inhabit, maintaining the wellness of the mind can be extraordinarily difficult – thus why it’s important to recognize the benefits of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
According to the creator of modern mindful practice, psychologist Jon Kabat Zinn, we can define mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the moment, and non-judgmentally, in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.”
For Dr. Zinn, mindfulness is all about de-emphasizing our narrative as individual selves catapulting through our life story. Instead, mindfulness emphasizes the moment-to-moment experience of being alive.
The benefits of shifting our perspective away from our frenetic default and toward a mindful new horizon have been well-characterized since Dr. Zinn popularized Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Beyond reducing physical experiences of stress, mindful practice has been shown to decrease emotional reactivity, increase cognitive flexibility, and improve short-term memory.
What about meditation?
Meditation is a powerful tool for improving mindful awareness and removing stress from day-to-day life. Just a few minutes of focused meditation each day can help you take huge strides in cultivating a mindful perspective.
It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to become an enlightened guru capable of meditating for hours on end in order for meditation to be helpful. Mindfulness isn’t about changing your entire life – it’s about altering your angle on life just enough to have a big impact.