What is Mindfulness?

The most basic definition of mindfulness is being fully present in this moment without being caught up in judging this moment. Simply sensing things as they are rather than evaluating whether or not they are what we wanted, expected, feared, etc.

It might be helpful to think of mindfulness as the opposite of “mindlessness” which tends to lead to an “autopilot” or reactive pattern of living.


Why Should I Practice Mindfulness?

Research suggests that learning and practicing mindfulness skills can result in physical and emotional benefits. In addition, those who learn mindfulness skills generally report improvements in their ability to cope with stress, improved sleep, increased energy and enthusiasm for life, and decreases in pain with increased ability to cope with pain that remains. Studies which examine the impact of learning mindfulness skills on a wide variety of medical conditions have tended to show modest but significant benefits in treatment outcomes associated with mindfulness training. And, since mindfulness just means being present with what is happening right now, many report that the quality of life improves as they practice mindfulness – in short, life just ends up being richer when we show up for the moments of our lives.

Is there a difference between “Mindfulness” and “Meditation”?

Sometimes the words “mindfulness” and “meditation” are used interchangeably and it can be confusing.  One easy way to think about it is to consider that mindfulness can be practiced in a formal or informal way. The informal practice of mindfulness is basically being present in our day to day life with whatever we are doing. If we really taste the food we eat, see the sights around us, listen to what others are saying, feel the warm water on our skin when we shower, etc. then we are engaged in the informal practice of mindfulness. The formal practice of mindfulness is meditation. It’s a way to reduce distractions, quiet ourselves and unplug from the “doing” part of life so that we can more deeply focus on just “being” fully present. Generally the reason we engage in a formal mindfulness practice or meditate is so there can be enough stability in the mind to be able to actually engage in the informal practice and really be present in everything we do.

How much time does it take to practice mindfulness?

The informal practice of mindfulness takes no additional time at all. You simply do the things you’re doing with more awareness. The formal practice can take as much or as little time as you like. Some research suggests that even a few minutes of meditation a day can have a positive impact on the brain and result in other benefits. Frequent small periods of practice are generally considered to result in better outcomes that infrequent longer periods of practice.

Do I have to be Buddhist to practice mindfulness or will it have a negative impact on my own religious beliefs?

You certainly do not need to be Buddhist or affiliated with any religious tradition to engage in and benefit from mindfulness. While mindfulness and meditation do have some roots in ancient eastern practices, teachings related to being aware and engaging in contemplation are common to many religious traditions. Mindfulness instruction as offered through Intermountain is not affiliated with any religious tradition. That said, many who have engaged in learning mindfulness skills from a variety of faith backgrounds have reported that it has resulted in benefits and increased depth in their own existing spirituality.

Is mindfulness a fad or is there real science behind it?

The word “mindfulness” seems to be popping up everywhere these days, and certainly some of the material being offered as part of this movement may lack grounding in science. it is reassuring to note that there are forms of mindfulness training which have been developed and researched with a commitment to rigorous evaluation. This has resulted in some evidence-based mindfulness skills training options which, in some cases, have decades of legitimate research supporting their usefulness. Intermountain is committed to offering evidence-based mindfulness skills training taught by fully qualified instructors.

How Can I Learn to Practice Mindfulness?

There are many ways to begin a mindfulness practice. You could start right now by