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Part Two: Why Mindfulness?
Insights on the benefits of mindfulness
Hello Friends! 👋
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Today we continue the series of a three-part mindfulness introduction; the what, the why, and the how. Click here to access Part One: What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has taken center stage in the past couple of decades as a gateway toward a well-lived life; it has been subject to much research validating its impact and benefits.
The benefits of mindfulness are well documented and range from physiological to psychological to philosophical.
In this edition, I will be sharing tapping into three ways I believe makes mindfulness not only essential but, in my opinion, a requirement for flourishing.
🧠 MINDFULNESS AND OUR PSYCHOLOGY+PHYSIOLOGY
Reminder on the definition of mindfulness as per Jon Kabbat-zin: it is paying attention, in a particular way; on purpose, moment-to-moment, and non-judgmentally.
It has been considered striking that such a simple practice as mindfulness meditation has profound psychological and physiological impacts, from psychotherapeutic programs alleviating anxiety, eating disorders, chronic pain, and depression to decreasing blood pressure, cortisol levels, muscle tension, improved immunity, increased telomerase activity, as well as enhanced cognitive functioning.
We will start with the power of paying attention on purpose.
Paying attention is done by complex areas of the brain that link to the most advanced part of the brain; the Pre Frontal Cortex (PFC).
Paying attention in the midst of distractions requires executive attention networks; when we practice mindfulness, we activate that part of the brain frequently, resulting in stronger neural connections as per the concept of neuroplasticity (more about that in the next post where we talk about the mechanics of how mindfulness functions)
We get better at what we consistently practice.
The PFC is considered the CEO of the brain, responsible for executive functioning such as emotional regulation, sense of self, goal setting, and motivation.
By practicing mindfulness, we empower the CEO to run the show, thereby allowing us to manage the functions of other parts of the brain responsible for flight-fight-freeze reactions - which in modern day can be the source of chronic stress.
While this survival mechanism was essential for our ancestors to survive in the wild, we are no more living in the wild under the constant threat of a bear attack.
However, our brain is wired for survival, and so that same response to the threat of a tiger is replicated from threats for simpler things in comparison, like a nasty email from your boss or getting cut off by someone on the road.
Through mindfulness, we learn how to tame this survival instinct which allows us to move from reacting to responding.
This is the best use of our PFC.
☀️ MINDFULNESS & AUTHENTIC LIVING
We must know our values and what we truly want in order to live an authentic life.
Knowing our true values is not an easy job; we are constantly surrounded by major companies and products that feed on our attention.
And through social media, we are exposed to all bells and whistles of what "is good", "looks good", "must have", and "must do."
Having to navigate all of this in pursuit of finding your true desire and values that is worth your time, your attention, your effort, and your feelings is challenging work
Mindfulness allows us to explore our true desires, feelings, and values by providing clarity.
Living mindfully, we learn how to filter out the noise that all the bells and whistles make.
This silence or clarity allows us to dig deeper or to explore our true selves better to choose to put our efforts into what we truly desire, allowing us to live with purpose.
"Purpose" is one of the three pillars required to have meaning in life.
Mindfulness also allows us to see habitual ways of reacting which may not serve us.
This awareness of our habituation reaction provides us with space to choose a different response that may serve us and those we care about better.
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom - Viktor Frankl
This level of autonomy and control over one's life is one of the main hallmarks of a highly motivated and determined person, as per the Self-Determination Theory, which we will cover in future posts regarding motivation and goal setting.
♾ MINDFULNESS & ABUNDANCE OF CHARACTER
Through mindfulness, we are able to access an unlimited supply of innate characteristics that we know are essential for a life well lived.
For example, people may argue that in order to foster patience, we have to endure the unpleasant; we have to force ourselves to ignore our desire or care for ourselves.
That concept of patience makes it feel like a burden that only the holiest of us can achieve.
However, I propose a different approach; patience is an innate characteristic we all can access with abundance if we approach it from another direction.
Patience is the inevitable outcome if we let go of our resistance. Quite simply, whatever you don't resist, you are naturally patient with.
Now that doesn't make managing resistance easy; however, for some of us who are not patient, it is easier to work with our resistance (which we are very familiar and acquainted with) than to learn a new concept of being patient.
In working with what we know, we multiply our chances for success, make it less demanding and more natural, feel more competent, and see it as a gift of hard work rather than a burden of having to be someone we think we are not.
I could go on with examples of this on many other characteristics, but I will keep that for another time.
For now, let me leave you with a couple more thoughts.
Focus is abundant, if we manage distractions.
Discipline is permanent, if we truly connect with the task we want to be disciplined with.
So, where does mindfulness come in here?
As I shared earlier, mindfulness is paying attention on purpose, non-judgmentally.
At the heart of mindfulness is noticing our resistances.
We notice our habitual ways of reacting to different things in our life where resistance may result from fear, limiting beliefs, and socioeconomic limitations.
All these aspects can be overcome if dealt with wisely; by relating to them with more understanding, respect, care, kindness, wisdom, curiosity, and clarity.
In part three we will go over the ways in which we can learn and cultivate mindfulness in our lives and interactions.
For now, notice your level of presence in whatever and whoever you are with in each moment and try to intentionally being there.
Have a Super Sunday! 💪