In the past couple of decades, mindfulness has become prominent in western culture. It is a practice endorsed by psychologists and therapists alike. More and more people have incorporated mindful thinking into their day-to-day life.
Most people think of mindfulness as some easy trick to make them feel better in the moment. Some don’t even think it works, believing it’s just a placebo effect. Even the advocates for using mindful thinking don’t know everything about it. So here are ten traits of mindful thinking that most people don’t know.
What Is Mindfulness?
The origins of mindfulness go back hundreds of years, first appearing in Buddhist cultures. Eastern communities have enjoyed the benefits of mindfulness ever since its discovery. But it didn’t reach the west until a few decades ago.
Mindfulness is the ability of an individual to be fully present. It means being aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and feeling without being judgmental. Besides that, it involves introspection. Also, it aims to make people understand their environment rather than being reactive. It ensures you let go of biases and analyze everything properly.
The people who don’t engage in mindful thinking often go through life on autopilot. By using mindfulness, you can sharpen your cognitive abilities, thus allowing you to take control of your life. This can benefit all areas of your life, from your professional to personal life.
Mindfulness is often practiced through meditation. Mindful meditation involves letting go of judgment and biases and indulging in the brain’s natural curiosity. By reflecting in a non-judgmental way, you can start understanding your emotions.
10 Traits Of Mindful Thinking That Most People Don’t Know
These are the essential characteristics of mindfulness that most people are aware of. But mindfulness is much deeper than that. It’s a complex process through which one can improve all aspects of their life. So, here are ten lesser-known facts about mindfulness.
1. Mindful Thinking Is Not All In Your Head
Most people seem to think that mindfulness is just something that goes on in your head. That it’s just about your thoughts and doesn’t go beyond that. But mindfulness is more about connecting with your mind, body, and emotions. You have to engage mentally and physically to be truly mindful.
Meditation begins and ends in the body. Paying attention to what’s going on around you starts with being aware of your body. You have to be in tune with the stimuli your body gives you. Understand what you’re sensing, don’t just ignore it. When you get your body and mind are in line, you can better understand yourself.
Mindfulness meditation helps improve physical health in many ways. It helps relieve stress, treats heart disease, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, and improves sleep.
2. It’s Backed By Science
Some people don’t take mindfulness seriously, and they think it’s just a fairy-tale. In reality, it’s backed by science. Especially in the past couple of decades, there have been a lot of studies proving that mindfulness has pragmatic benefits.
A growing body of research shows that it reduces stress and anxiety, improves attention and memory, and promotes self-regulation and empathy. A study by Sara Lazar determined that mindfulness can change the brain’s grey matter and brain regions linked with memory, sense of self, and emotion regulation.
There are many more studies like this one, all proving that mindfulness is not just a buzzword. Using it as a therapeutic practice is supported by many psychologists. If you want to start seeing a therapist, expect them to suggest mindful thinking to relieve the symptoms of certain mental disorders.
3. Mindful Thinking Changes Your Brain
Mindfulness doesn’t just give you short-term benefits. It also reconfigures your brain in a way that improves your cognitive sharpness. Mindful meditation is especially useful in this process.
Studies have shown that the brain physically changes when you learn a new skill. Learning will restructure different parts of the brain, depending on the nature of that skill. Even skills that don’t seem relevant, like crocheting, will develop the brain.
Previous studies suggested that meditation is a skill that helps improve the parts of the brain responsible for attention. Mindfulness meditation increases the thickness of the prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes, which connects to attention control. Compassion-based meditation showed increases in the limbic system, which processes emotions. By practicing meditation daily, you can start to see a difference in how you see the world.
4. It’s A Lifestyle
Mindfulness is often mischaracterized and defined as a tool you can use when feeling overwhelmed. While you can use it like that, it’s intended to be used as a lifestyle. When you incorporate mindfulness as a part of your daily routine, you will see the best results.
To gain all the health benefits, like restructuring your brain and relieving anxiety, you need to live a mindful lifestyle. These changes are triggered by your thoughts and actions. They only surface when you shift your whole mindset. You have to train your brain to view mindfulness as a reflex rather than something it has to do consciously.
Mindfulness can expand to all areas of your life. You can mindfully do everything, from eating to exercising and working. This way of approaching tasks makes you pay more attention to everything. You will do everything with more care, making sure you gain benefits from life rather than mindlessly shuffling through it.
5. It Creates Better Habits
Adding on the idea that mindfulness has long-term benefits, it’s essential to know that it also helps create better habits. Because it forces you to be present, aware, and proactive, it helps motivate you to live better. Being aware of your feelings and impulses makes you better tools for battling bad habits.
Many past studies have compared the habits of individuals from a control group to the patterns of people practicing mindfulness. One study showed that the individuals from the mindfulness group significantly improved their healthy eating habits, tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis consumption, and sleep habits. Some specialists even suggest that mindfulness can be a powerful tool when battling addiction and eating disorders.
6. Mindful Thinking Improves Interpersonal Relationships
Improving relationships is one of the benefits of restructuring the prefrontal cortex using mindfulness. Mindful meditation develops some of the most critical skills for socialization, like attention and emotional regulation.
For a relationship to work, you need to communicate and be calm. By improving your attention, mindfulness can help you become a better listener. One trap people often fall into is talking about themselves and their needs, forgetting to check in on the other’s needs.
But, when you practice mindful thinking, you will avoid making that mistake. You will also be able to regulate your emotions better, thus helping you stay calm and logical in highly tense situations.
7. It Helps You Deal With Fear
Besides the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, mindfulness also changes the shape of the amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response, amongst other things. Practicing mindful thinking shrinks the amygdala, making it easier to control your fear logically rather than giving in to instincts.
When that amygdala senses danger, it signals your brain to release stress hormones, preparing your body to fight or run away. Nowadays, that response stems from stress, fear, anxiety, and anger. When the amygdala shrinks, it becomes less active, thus giving the brain fewer signals. Your body won’t be flooded by as many hormones, making it easier to be rational when you feel afraid. The benefit is that you will be better equipped to deal with fear.
8. Mindful Thinking Helps You Be More Self-Compassionate
Compassion is a desirable quality, mainly because people are harsher than ever before. They think that they should always be critical of their actions, but that only leads to depression. Mindfulness helps you tackle that issue and learn to be self-compassionate.
Mindfulness makes you reflect, thus uncovering emotions that you’ve buried deep and making you deal with them. It shows you both the positives and negatives you possess as a person. When you interact will all sides of you, you start understanding that you are only human. You begin to acknowledge that humans are imperfect and make mistakes. It will incentivize you to start being kinder to yourself.
9. It Makes You More Empathetic
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotions others feel. By making you aware and attentive, mindfulness enables the development of empathy.
When you know your environment, you start making mental notes of the things around you. You stop ignoring the signs of distress you see in other people. Because you acknowledge others’ feelings, your brain will naturally want to help them. And, you will engage with a larger scope of emotions, thus making you aware of more hardships than just your own. You will become better at noticing when someone needs help, and you will start offering it when you can.
10. It Makes You More Patient
Patience is a quality that most people wouldn’t associate with mindfulness. But the broad perspective you get when you start being mindful can nurture a patient mindset. By making you live in the present, mindfulness will shape your personality to become more patient.
Mindful meditation allows you to understand what’s essential in life and prioritize everything. This way, you won’t feel the need to rush things. As a by-product of becoming more patient, you will also manage your anxiety and stress levels better.
Final Thoughts On Some Traits of Mindful Thinking That Most People Don’t Know
Mindfulness is one of the best therapeutic practices out there. But there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it. Even the people who like mindfulness aren’t aware of all the benefits it can provide.
Besides the mental health benefits that most people know about, mindfulness also improves other areas of life. It sharpens your brain, helps create better habits and deal with fear, and makes you more accepting and empathetic, amongst other things. The best part is that it’s all backed by science and, if you practice it, it can become a lifestyle.