Mindfulness is a powerful practice that can transform your life. This ancient tradition involves developing awareness both within ourselves and in the world around us, and it offers numerous benefits, including reduced stress, decreased anxiety, and newfound insights. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or just getting started, mindfulness has something to offer everyone. In this post, we’ll dive into the basics of mindfulness and explore the many ways it can help you live a more fulfilling life. So, whether you’re looking to handle stress and anxiety or simply seeking greater understanding and self-awareness, mindfulness is the perfect place to start.
As a Christian, I look to Jesus Christ as a prime example of how to live a good life. If you carefully read in the New Testament, Jesus took time to be mindful and find stillness. Here are a couple examples:
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.Mark 1:35
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.Matthew 14:23
Clearly, Jesus understood the power of stillness, but in addition to that, he admonished us to do the same! After teaching the Nephite people in the Americas after his resurrection, he told them to go to their homes, ponder on what they had learned and felt, and prepare their minds for his return the next day.
Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.3 Nephi 17:3, The Book of Mormon
The admonition from the Savior to go home, ponder, and prepare your mind, to me, is all about finding stillness. There are so many aspects of religion that help us with this: prayer, scripture study, Sacrament and other worship services, temple worship, etc.
Stillness refers to a state of being physically and mentally at rest, yet far from being asleep. When we practice mindfulness, we often strive to reach a state of stillness, where we are free from distractions and able to be fully present in the moment. This stillness allows us to quiet the mind, which can in turn lead to increased mindfulness and a greater sense of peace and well-being.
Supporting the Four Pillars of Well-being
The primary purpose of a mindfulness practice is to fortify our power to use our agency. By generating more awareness through meditation and stillness, we generate more strength in our agency to make wise use of the space between a stimulus, our feelings, and our response. By putting off the natural man, we let our spiritual selves, our divine nature, dictate our feelings and responses to stimuli.
In addition to that primary purpose, finding stillness through regular mindfulness practice yields benefits in each of the four pillars of well-being. Recall that the four pillars are your:
- Physical Health
- Mental Health
- Spiritual Health
- Emotional Health
In terms of physical health, mindfulness and stillness can have a significant impact in several ways. Here are a few examples:
- Pain management: Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective tool for managing pain, reducing symptoms in individuals with chronic pain conditions. By focusing on the present moment and becoming aware of physical sensations, we can learn to manage pain in a more effective way. I have experienced this personally by being able to mitigate and even eliminate headache pain by focusing intently on the headache sensation and letting it go.
- Improved sleep: Mindfulness can also help improve sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety, which can cause difficulty sleeping. Additionally, by becoming more aware of our bodies, we can develop better sleep hygiene and habits, leading to better sleep overall.
- Reduced stress and tension: Stress and tension can have negative impacts on our physical health, leading to aches, pains, and even physical illnesses. By practicing mindfulness and stillness, we can reduce physical tension and improve our overall physical well-being.
- Increased physical awareness: Mindfulness can also help increase our physical awareness, allowing us to better understand our bodies and detect potential health problems early. By paying attention to physical sensations, we can also become more aware of our posture, breathing, and other physical habits, leading to better overall physical health.
Incorporating mindfulness and stillness into our daily lives can have a profound impact on our physical health, by increasing our awareness of our bodies and developing a deeper understanding of physical sensations, thus improving our physical health and well-being.
A regular mindfulness practice can also have a tremendous impact on your mental health, offering numerous benefits for your overall well-being, such as:
- Reduced anxiety and depression: Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective tool for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, promoting a greater sense of calm and peace. By focusing on the present moment and becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions, we can learn to manage these emotions more effectively. The added awareness found through a mindful state of being gives you power over the spaces between the stimulus and your feelings and reaction.
- Increased clarity and focus: By practicing mindfulness and stillness, we can improve our focus and concentration, leading to greater productivity and better decision-making. These practices can also help us gain a deeper understanding of our thoughts and emotions, leading to increased clarity and insight.
- Improved resilience: Mindfulness and stillness can also help increase our resilience, allowing us to better handle stress and adversity. By becoming more aware of our thoughts and emotions, we can also develop better coping strategies and a greater sense of inner peace.
- Better self-awareness: Through mindfulness and stillness, we can also develop a greater sense of self-awareness, allowing us to better understand ourselves and our motivations. This can lead to improved self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Mindfulness and stillness are powerful tools for improving our mental health. By incorporating a regular practice into our daily lives, we can experience greater peace, happiness, and a sense of inner balance and well-being.
Practicing mindfulness and stillness can benefit spiritual health in several ways:
- Increased self-awareness: By becoming more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, we can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. This increased self-awareness can help foster a sense of spiritual connection and purpose. For me, this extra awareness helps me understand my relationship to God and my own divine nature and destiny.
- Reduced stress and anxiety: As mentioned previously, a regular mindful practice can reduce stress and anxiety, which can interfere with our ability to connect with our divine nature. By reducing these negative emotions, we can improve our ability to connect with our spirituality and experience a greater sense of peace and inner calm.
- Improved focus and concentration: Mindfulness and stillness can also help improve our focus and concentration, allowing us to more effectively engage in spiritual practices such as meditation and prayer. This increased focus can deepen our spiritual connection and help us achieve a greater sense of inner peace. I’ll share with you my own mindful prayer practice a little later.
- Increased gratitude: By becoming more present in the moment and aware of our surroundings, we can develop a greater sense of gratitude for the world around us. This increased gratitude can improve our spiritual well-being and deepen our connection to the world and to a higher power.
Overall, practicing mindfulness is a powerful method for promoting spiritual well-being and fostering a deeper sense of connection, purpose, and inner peace. By incorporating this into our daily lives, we can experience greater spiritual fulfillment and a deeper sense of connection to ourselves, others, and the world around us.
Finally, mindfulness and stillness can greatly benefit our emotional health as well.
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Mindfulness as a tool to reduce stress is a common thread through all the pillars of well-being, and for good reason. Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety by helping individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, and providing them with techniques for managing these emotions in a more effective way. By practicing mindfulness, individuals can learn to handle stressful situations more effectively, leading to reduced stress and anxiety levels.
- Improving mood: Mindfulness has also been linked to improvements in mood, with research showing that it can be an effective tool for managing symptoms of depression and anxiety. By focusing on the present moment and developing a greater awareness of our emotions, we can improve our overall mood and well-being.
- Increasing emotional regulation: Mindfulness and stillness can also help individuals regulate their emotions, allowing them to manage negative emotions more effectively and respond to stress in a healthier way. By learning to control our emotional reactions, we can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Enhancing emotional intelligence: By practicing mindfulness and stillness, we can develop greater emotional intelligence, allowing us to better understand our emotions and those of others. This increased emotional intelligence can improve our relationships and help us handle difficult emotional situations in a more effective way.
Incorporating mindfulness and stillness into our daily lives can greatly benefit our emotional health. By increasing our awareness at this level, we can lead more fulfilling and emotionally balanced lives.
My Own Personal Mindfulness Practice
My typical mindfulness routine looks like this (at least this is what mine looks like):
- Sit in a comfortable, yet alert position, with your back upright and straight. This can be on a cushion or pillow with your back against a wall. Try to block out any additional stimuli, such as light or noise. I prefer to do this first thing in the morning with the lights off and the house is quiet.
- Begin breathing deep belly breaths, focusing on the sensation of the breath moving in and out of your body. I prefer to breathe through my nose, but some prefer in the nose and out the mouth. Do what works for you.
- As you focus on your breathing, you’ll likely have thoughts pass through your mind. This is totally normal and expected! Welcome those thoughts and understand them. Where did they come from? Why now? What feelings are associated with them? Once you answer these (and maybe others), just let the thought go and refocus on your breath.
- After 4–5 minutes of breathing, I begin to pray. This is less the structured, formal prayers I was taught as a child, and more delving into the feelings associated with my prayers. I feel gratitude for my Savior and his sacrifice for me; I feel gratitude for the blessings of my family, home, and career; I feel the desire and need for the things I am struggling with, I feel the pain and suffering my children are feeling and seek for guidance on how to help them. I don’t try to solve problems in my brain, rather I place the burden before the Lord and try to listen to His direction and guidance (which usually comes by means of thoughts and solutions in my head).
- After 4–5 minutes of prayer, I finish my prayer with thoughts and feelings of the Savior, then with another 2–3 minutes of deep breathing.
To keep time, I use the Insight Timer app on my phone with ocean waves as my background sound. And now that I have seen the tremendous benefits of this mindfulness practice for me, I have started doing a 5-10 minute guided session with a teacher on Insight Timer each day. This has introduced me to many other aspects of practice that are intriguing and exciting to learn about!
After practicing the for some time, my wife told me that she really likes “Meditation Jon”. The power that has come into my life from this practice, simply by taking the time to slow down and be mindful, has been tremendous. It truly has granted me more strength of agency to make use of the space between stimulus, feeling, and response!
Incorporating mindfulness and stillness into our daily lives can have a profound impact on our overall well-being, benefiting each of the four pillars — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. By making time for a mindfulness practice, such as meditation or prayer, we can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, regulate emotions, and deepen our spiritual connection.
As a challenge for the week, try setting aside at least 10 minutes each morning for a mindfulness practice. Experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for you. Keep track of your experiences in a journal and reflect on how this practice has impacted your life. Remember, mindfulness is a practice, so stick with it and see the positive effects it can have on your well-being. If you would like to share how this practice has affected you, leave a comment below!