What is Mindfulness?

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what-is-mindfulnessOne of the latest buzzwords in mental health is “mindfulness,” which Psychology Today defines as “a state of open, active attention on the present.”

To be mindful, in a nutshell, is to be observant about the details of the current moment without resorting to judgment. Therapists, gurus, and others recommend various techniques designed to make you more mindful in a range of contexts including stress, anxiety, eating habits, and relationships.

How Can You Be More Mindful?

Whereas a practice like meditation urges a practitioner to clear his or her mind, being mindful is about paying careful attention to the details of the moment. To be more mindful in daily life, be attentive to your own feelings and reactions to different stimuli—acknowledge your honest emotional responses without judging yourself for having them. It can be helpful to write down some of these details and pay attention to how they evolve over time.

Can Mindful Practices Ease Stress and Anxiety?

Therapists often suggest techniques that help patients become more mindful about stress and anxiety triggers. Rather than fighting the emotional response to these triggers, therapists urge patients instead to simply acknowledge their feelings. Later examination can help patients analyze the events and experiences that activate anxious responses. Moreover, many patients find another benefit to acknowledging feelings of stress and anxiety: often, by letting those feelings occur without judgment, patients find that the negative feelings pass more quickly.

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What is Mindful Eating, and How Does It Work?

Mindful eating is the application of these general principles in connection with food and eating habits. Typical mindful eating practices include paying attention to the details of tastes and textures in specific foods, observing closely feelings of satiety and hunger, and cataloguing the emotions you experience as you eat. The Center for Mindful Eating encourages these practices as a way “to guide your decisions to begin and end eating [and] change your relationship to food.” The goal of mindful eating is to foster a more aware connection to food and thus develop healthier eating habits.

What Is a Mindful Relationship?

As with eating, mindful practices can also be applied to interpersonal relationships. The goal of mindful coupling is to be attentive to your emotions as well as your partner’s. A key principle here is the absence of judgment. It can be somewhat easier to reserve judgment of yourself than of others. However, by learning to acknowledge your partner’s emotions and feelings without judgment, you can help foster a safe space in which the two of you are able to communicate effectively and honestly.

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Learning to be more mindful is a skill that takes time but has incredible portability into different aspects of one’s life. The general principles have relevance not only for personal emotional and mental health, but also for interpersonal relationships and even eating habits. Moreover, mindfulness consists of practices that you can incorporate on your own into your daily life, either with or without the guidance of a therapist or other coach.

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