What is Mindfulness?Mindfulness is paying attention to our experience in a way that allows us to respond rather than react. It is a quality of inner-stillness that is always available, even when our life circumstances feel out of our control and chaotic. It is possible to be mindful/aware/pay attention to everything in our experience including anything we experience through our five senses, as well as our thoughts and emotions.
Mindfulness is quickly becoming known as an antidote to our always-on, constantly connected to technology, multi-tasking, distracted, and sleep deprived way of life that can erode focus, attention and awareness (and our relationships).
We spend a lot of time developing our intelligence and strengthening our bodies in sports or exercise, but we give our mind very little attention. Mindfulness can help develop and strengthen our mind while increasing our ability to focus, recognize and manage our emotions, make better decisions, and empathize in our relationships.
Our emotions are continually changing. Difficult emotions like anger, fear, worry and stress actually release chemicals in our brain that prevent us from learning, and can make us react and say and do things we didn't want to. Mindfulness helps to stop these chemicals.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
Prefrontal Cortex is the key to executive function, and mindfulness practice activates and strengthens the PFC. Mindfulness practice thus contributes to development of executive function.
9 Aspects of Well-Being That Are Developed Though Mindfulness Practice:
1) Bodily regulation - a state of coordination and balance between the brakes and accelerator of the nervous system.
2) Insight - "self knowing awareness". This is the key to building positive social connections.
3) Attuned communication with others - receiving signals from another and allowing our state to be influenced by theirs. This leads to the experience of "being felt" and of being understood.
4) Empathy - Empathy enables us to "see from the stance of another person's mind". Our brains are designed to enable us to imagine what might be going on inside someone else, and this ability can be cultivated.
5) Emotional balance - When emotions are overactive, we become overwhelmed and emotionally chaotic; when emotions are not active, we may experience stagnation or depression, a sense that our life is not meaningful.
6) Fear modulation - our ability to calm and soothe, and even unlearn, our own fears.
7) Response flexibility - the capacity to pause before taking action; being able to consider a variety of possible options and to choose among them.
8) Intuition - access to awareness of the wisdom of the body, particularly the complex neuronal webs around the viscera, the hollow organs including the heart and intestines. These areas constitute a separate "brain" that processes information and experience, learns, and makes decisions. This intuitive intelligence can inform, and influence our reasoning.
9) Morality - taking into consideration the larger picture, imagining and acting on what is best for the larger group rather than just for ourselves.