What Mindfulness is and the Benefits

definition for mindfulness - mindfulness is puzzle piece

Mindfulness is an umbrella term for paying attention to the present moment. It can be practiced in many ways, including meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises.

This is the condensed version of mindfulness that everyone knows and understands. It’s also where the misconceptions come into play. 

Many people believe mindfulness is a formal meditation process. But there’s a difference between mindfulness and meditation. 

Mindfulness is being present without overthinking, while meditation is a dedicated exercise to intentionally explore your thoughts, feelings, and body. You can also combine the two for mindfulness meditation, but they are not mutually exclusive. 

Now that we’ve had several years to study what mindfulness is, we have a better understanding of how to use it to improve our mind and our body (yes, it works both ways).

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Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment.

definition for mindfulness - mindfulness is puzzle piece

The official definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” 

But what do you need to be more aware of? And why?

Mindfulness is being aware of your:

  • Thoughts and feelings
  • Your body and surroundings, as well as your 
  • Emotions. 

To practice mindfulness, you need to train your brain to be present in the moment instead of focusing on the past or future.

The goal is to learn (or re-learn) how to value our experience as it unfolds in the present moment. For our brains, this is called neuroplasticity. 

Psychology Today explains it best: “Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to continue growing and evolving in response to life experiences. Plasticity is the capacity to be shaped, molded, or altered; neuroplasticity, then, is the ability of the brain to adapt or change over time by creating new neurons and building new networks.”

That’s why the practice of mindfulness must be met with an attitude of openness and curiosity.

For most, that’s the hard part.

When you master mindfulness, you won’t always be thinking about what you’re going to do tomorrow or worrying about something that happened yesterday—mindfulness helps you stay grounded in the here and now.

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Why Mindfulness is Important Now

what mindfulness is and the 3 benefits according to science - Stephanie Esser Breath Coach

Now for the why.

Why do we need to be present? After all, it can be fun to plan our future or reminisce about the past. 

The problem is that when we’re constantly living in the past or present, we don’t give our minds a break. That’s when we get stressed and anxious. Anxiety is living in the future or the past.

Mindfulness helps shut off the chatter in our minds little by little. 

This term is so “in” right now because it’s becoming an unnatural trait. People were naturally mindful back when I was a child because there were fewer distractions. Being present came naturally. 

There’s a reason why anxiety rates for kids are through the roof. 

Our modern world is constantly hijacking our attention with social media, video games, and never-ending access to bad news. By teaching our children (and ourselves) how to connect to their current environment, we can empower them to take control when faced with negative emotions and situations. 

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 3 Science-Backed Benefits of Mindfulness

3 benefits to mindfulness for kids -mindfulness of the breath

The benefits of mindfulness are endless. This practice can help you feel less stressed, more focused, and happier overall. 

However, you won’t be able to reap these benefits without practice. Practicing mindfulness for 15 minutes every day (even if it’s just before going to sleep) makes us feel calmer because our minds aren’t constantly jumping from thought to thought. 

With this type of presence comes peace – something many people don’t get enough of.

Here are some other benefits to practicing mindfulness according to science!

1. You become more confident. 

When you’re mindful, it’s easier to focus on what truly matters rather than getting caught up in how other people think about things or what they say about them (even if those opinions are negative). 

Additionally, practicing mindfulness can help improve self-esteem by allowing us more space between ourselves and others’ opinions. It helps us see ourselves clearly without bias from others’ views on us. 

Not only does this give us confidence, but it also makes us feel better overall because there aren’t any expectations placed upon our behaviors or actions.

Mindfulness also implies acceptance and non-judgment of whatever thoughts or feelings come up, whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. Studies show that it can help you become less biased and more compassionate.

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2. It helps reduce stress and anxiety

Practicing mindfulness helps us stay calm during stressful moments by training our brains to not immediately jump into fight-or-flight mode when confronted with emotions such as anger or fear.

MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) are both programs that have been shown to help people manage depression and anxiety. They provide tools for coping with daily stressors and treating mental illnesses more effectively. 

In short, these daily practices teach individuals how their thoughts influence their moods and behavior patterns.

Stress reduction has physical benefits, too. Harvard’s analysis of mindfulness has shown these benefits include relieving symptoms of:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Poor posture 
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Psoriasis
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

3. Mindfulness is a tool for better parenting.

Training your mind to be present can be difficult, especially as a parent. Training your brain to be more present acts as a real-life “reset” button when you need to seek focus or clarity. 

Having the capability to find that reset has proven to be an effective tool for parents. For one, it can lessen stress, depression, and anxiety in parents of preschoolers and children with disabilities. One study suggests that parents who practice mindfulness have better relationships with their children because mindfulness activates “the part of the brain involved in empathy and emotional regulation (the left anterior insula/inferior frontal gyrus).

Studies also show that practicing mindfulness every day can help kids sleep better.

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Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today

The benefits of mindfulness can be felt immediately, but it’s a process that takes time and dedication.

One way to develop your practice is through mindfulness meditation. Try a walking meditation instead if you struggle to sit still for long periods. 

During a body scan exercise, you can also practice mindfulness by focusing on your breathing or feeling each body part one at a time. 

You and your child can use this mindfulness exercise to feel more confident. 

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The breathing class taught by Stephanie Esser- Breathing Coach

MA.Ed., Certified BREATHE™ Coach, RYT200, Yoga Calm® Youth Instructor I help kids surf the waves of life, one breath at a time!