So, what is mindfulness? To cite Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the head honchos in mindfulness research, it is the nonjudgmental attention to experiences in the present moment. And, it typically cultivates in a formal practice such as sitting meditation, walking meditation, or mindful movements.

Through this literature review, Lazar and Ott identified four main ways mindfulness works to improve our quality of life:
Attention regulation
Body awareness
Emotion regulation
Sense of self

Attention regulation is the ability to focus on an object of awareness. Training the mind to overcome distraction helps you feel less flustered and “all over the place” and more centered.

Next, body awareness contributes to the ability to sense your own emotions and as a bonus, the emotions of others. In order to develop empathy, it’s key to be able to sense how you are feeling.

The third core feature of how mindfulness works is emotion regulation. By allowing feelings and emotions that might normally be avoided, to come up, be expressed, and fade away, mindfulness builds the capacity to bear undesirable feelings and works in a similar way to exposure therapy.

The final element that makes mindfulness work is the change in perspective of self. With practice, mindfulness can lead to a less static definition of one’s self, and the realization that we’re always changing. A more fluid existence can lead to less suffering and more “in the moment” enjoyment.

– National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine

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