Mindfulness and Well-Being
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s about knowing what is on your mind.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness: A Brief Overview.
Mindfulness can be likened to the sun, which can illuminate whatever it shines upon. It allows us to clearly see what is actually happening in our life. Thus, it allows us to experience and know our life more directly and fully.
Mindfulness allows us to connect with life’s precious occurrences, which are too often overlooked. For instance, how reflections of light dance with the movements of water, the comfort we feel from a cool breeze on a hot day, the inner warmth we feel when we are connected with our loved ones, seeing ourselves and others unclouded by judgment, insecurity, or blind reactivity.
Again, like the sun, mindfulness has the potential to illuminate everything, without discrimination. It reveals the pleasant as well as the unpleasant. It reveals our joys and our sorrows. It reveals our skillfulness as well as our unskillfulness. Herein lies mindfulness’s subtle, yet profound healing potential.
Mindfulness allows us to wake up to our life. It supports our capacity to see through and beyond our habitual ways of seeing and doing that may be unbeneficial, harmful, or limiting. Mindfulness allows us to respond with greater peace, compassion, and wisdom.
Mindfulness is often described as remembering; remembering who we are and why we are. Remembering to respond to life’s precious moments as if they actually matter - because when we really look, we can see the ways in which they do.
Mindfulness and Well-Being are Skills that we can Cultivate.
Mindfulness is a natural capacity that everyone possesses. As we will learn and experience throughout this course, mindfulness is also an essential factor in health and well-being. It is good to know that mindfulness can be cultivated and strengthened through skillful practice.
In the beginning, we are required to bring extra effort to awaken the state of mindfulness. It can feel artificial and be challenging at first. Please be assured, this is normal. However, as our ability to awaken states of mindfulness grows, we will notice that it gradually becomes more spontaneous and spills over into our everyday life. In other words, the state of mindfulness grows and becomes a dispositional trait, and we become more able to respond to life circumstances with skillful wisdom and compassion, thus engendering greater health and wellbeing.
Four Components of Well-Being
Richard Davidson and other researchers suggest four elements of well-being supported by neuroscience. All of which are skills to be cultivated and strengthened.
We will use Richard’s four components of wellbeing as a frame of reference for our class:
- Positive Outlook: Sustained positive emotions and mental outlook are manifestations of well-being and also increase well-being.
- Rebounding from Negative Emotion: How quickly a person recovers from adversity, can result in a person experiencing less negative emotions overall and may even have protective properties against mental health disorders.
- Mindfulness and Mind-Wandering: The ability to maintain present moment attention and intention, prevents the mind from getting lost in unskillful reactivity, negative emotions, and harmful thought patterns.
- Caring for Others: Prosocial qualities such as generosity, empathy, kindness, compassion, and gratitude are found to be components of well-being.
Consider the role of mindfulness in the above model. To foster a positive outlook and increase our ability to rebound from negative emotions, the wisdom that arises from mindfulness is essential. It allows us to recognize and understand the causes and conditions that create these frames of reference.
Take some time to honestly consider each aspect of well-being as they are reflected in your own life. Contemplating the above four components of wellbeing is not an invitation to criticize or judge yourself; rather it is an invitation to care for yourself and grow your innate capacity for health and well-being.