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Anti-Mindfulness Mindfulness Club

Anti-Mindfulness
Mindfulness Club

What is Mindfulness?

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For those who are completely new to the subject or need a refresher, mindfulness is the state of being aware of your experience of the present, without judgement or expectation.

 

You could think of it as a skill, as it's a mental state that generally doesn't come naturally without consideration and practice. The state of mindfulness can be achieved by cultivating awareness of your outer and inner world (e.g. bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions), and choosing what you engage with and how.

 

You can 'be mindful' or 'practice mindfulness' in many different ways. Meditation is one of the most well-known ways of practicing mindfulness. It involves focusing your attention on specific things, in a deliberate manner. 

Thinking Man
A man taking notes

It's important to note that mindfulness techniques like meditation are not about emptying your mind or distracting yourself from what's going on within you or around you. Being mindful invites you to fully engage with what's happening in the moment in a way that's quite different to how you experience day-to-day life.​

When our minds are occupied and immersed in tasks and to-do list items, our prefrontal cortex guides our attention and controls many of our cognitive functions. When our minds are not busy with completing tasks, the Default Mode Network automatically kicks in and puts us into ‘mind-wandering’ mode. 

When we 'mind-wander', we tend to self-evaluate, think about what others are thinking and dwell on memories of the past and expectations of the future. Mind-wandering can easily get out of hand and lead to unhelpful thinking patterns. 

Mindfulness can enable us to ‘tame’ mind-wandering as it is known to reduce Default Mode Network activity and prevent the mind from going into auto-pilot. In the state of mindfulness, we have a greater ability to deal with thoughts and emotions in a focused and intentional manner.

Mindfulness can equip you with strategies for making sense of uncertain situations but it certainly isn't an instant one-size-fits-all solution to the stresses of modern life. 

One of the key things that mindfulness can help you achieve is reducing stress. Within a few minutes of meditating, the stress response can start to weaken as the parasympathetic nervous system (otherwise known as the ‘rest and digest’ system) activates and dampens the stress response. Although mindfulness cannot prevent us from being stressed to begin with, it can enable us to return to a normal state much quicker.

In the long-run, a regular mindfulness practice can help us learn to consistently respond more calmly to stressful situations. 

Image by Raphael Renter | @raphi_rawr
Image by Ivan Aleksic

If you're already familiar with mindfulness techniques like meditation, you might have an idea of what mindfulness is to you. If you're a newbie, it's useful to investigate what mindfulness is to you, as understanding of this can help you choose techniques that are best for you.

Some people feel mindfulness allows them to detangle thoughts and make sense of the complexity of life. Some feel that it allows them to expand their worldview and notice things outside of their usual way of thinking. Some feel it allows them to take a break from the chaos of life. Some feel it allows them to engage more deeply with things happening around them.

You get to choose how you practice being mindful and why you do it. It doesn't have to be a religious or spiritual experience if you don't want it to be. It doesn't have to be about sitting still and going to expensive retreats either.

Keen to try being mindful, your way?

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