What is Mindfulness? What You Need to Know


mind·​ful·​ness | \ ˈmīn(d)-fəl-nəs \

Definition of mindfulness

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1: the quality or state of being mindful
2: the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis

also : such a state of awareness

Cambridge Dictionary:

1: the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm:
2: Mindfulness can be used to alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression

What is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness” is a bit of a buzzword these days, and it can mean a lot of things to different people. However,  mindfulness simply means paying attention.

But how is that different than any other time in our lives? you may be asking. Don’t we pay attention most of the time? Turns out that we do pay attention to some extent; but  not completely, and that’s something you discover with mindfulness practice.

Fore example, you might be paying attention to the words your reading now,  but your mind might wandering and thinking about related ideas, things you have to do later, things you’re worried about, a conversation that happened to you recently. This is pretty normal and it’s something that happens all the time.

Most times, as you walk down the street, or spend time with another person … you often aren’t fully paying attention. You don’t notice the flower on the ground in front of you, or how the breeze feels on your arms, or how the person you’re with seems to be struggling with something. Maybe you’ll notice some of that, but your mind is also elsewhere – perhaps thinking of your response.

Mindfulness is when you are aware of your thoughts and when you live in the present moment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. To be mindful is to wake up, to recognize what is happening in the present moment.

Living in the now. Mindfulness is about living in the moment.   It is when you deliberately pay attention to each moment, being fully engaged in whatever is happening around you and within you. It involves bringing an attitude of curiosity, acceptance and friendliness to whatever is experienced, rather than habitual patterns of judgment and criticism.

Characteristics of mindfulness 

  • Stopping
  • Noticing how different parts of our body feel (sensations)
  •  Noticing the light around you, how different things around us look
  •  Noticing sounds
  • Noticing smells, tastes
  • Noticing your thoughts and emotions
  • Paying full attention to what someone else is saying ( listening to understand- not listening to respond)
  • Noticing the details of something in front of us

So mindfulness isn’t just one thing — it can be all of the above, and more.

Mindfulness practice, then is simply attention training

Mindfulness Example

Imagine This:

You’re walking on a path in the mountain. You are in the moment and fully present. You are completely aware of your surroundings and totally connected to your sense of smell, touch, vision, taste and the way your body  moves.  You hear and feel the gentle breeze, you see the trees. You notice the smell of nature, as you inhale a big breath of fresh air. You notice the colours of the flowers, the shape of the rocks, the shadows of the mountain and all different hues that surround you. You are not judging any of this. You are just receiving and accepting it all – as is. That is an example mindfulness.

Mindfulness activities

  • Mindful non-judgmental awareness of breath, body, feelings, emotions and/or thoughts
  • Mindful walking meditation
  • Mindful eating
  • Listening with non-judgment

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

There are a lot of incredible benefits from practicing mindfulness, but here are the ones I’d like to emphasize:

  •  It helps you fully experience life (appreciation)
  •  It’s a powerful tool for changing your habits (awareness)
  • It helps you feel better about yourself (self-acceptance)
  • It helps you deal with frustration (letting go)
  • It can help you be kinder (compassion)
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