Mindfulness: what is it and why should it matter to you?

Mindfulness: what is it and why should it matter to you?

In order to fully comprehend everything you are about to learn from this site, you need to have a working knowledge of a few key topics. One of those is mindfulness. So, let’s look at what it is and why it is important to you in your life.

Mindfulness is defined in the dictionary as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” However, we are more interested in a different definition:

A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Why are we more interested in this? Because it can be easy to rush through life without noticing life.

Your mental wellbeing can be improved by paying more attention to what is happening in the here and now – to your own thoughts and feelings and all that is happening in the world around you. By paying attention to these things we can enjoy life more. It will also allow us to understand ourselves better.

Mindfulness: what is it and why should it matter to you?

Personally, I have benefitted from practising mindfulness in a number of ways. Almost all of my social interactions, whether these are direct or indirect, are more considered than before I began to practise. Thinking before I speak, something people are often keen to tell you to do, really is a virtue unto itself. Whilst I have not perfected this virtue, I have made great strides. Further, mindfulness has allowed me to care less about what other people think of me and worry less about the outcomes of things I have no control over.

Sounds good, right?

Mindfulness: what is it and why should it matter to you?

6 Reasons why it is time for you to start practising mindfulness:

  1. Stress reduction. Backed up by a plethora of scientific studies, practising mindfulness can really have a massive impact on your stress. This is partly due to the other reasons listed below but also due to how there is, over time, a significant reduction in anxiety.
  2. Reduced rumination. Regular practise is proven to reduce rumination. You’ll worry less because you’ll realise worrying is, in the majority of cases, pointless.
  3. Better memory. This one is slightly odd but it turns out being more mindful also improves your memory! A 2019 study by Jha et al. documented the benefits of mindfulness among two military groups, one who practised regularly and one that never did. Results showed that working memory was improved in the group that regularly practised mindfulness!
  4. Improved focus. There is a direct connection between practising mindfulness and improved cognitive flexibility and attentional functioning. Being less concerned about other things and being more in tune with yourself is great for getting things done!
  5. Less likely to react emotionally to bad situations. Research shows that people who practise mindfulness are able to emotionally detach themselves from upsetting situations. This one is particularly useful if you have to deal with members of the public on a regular basis – especially if they like to complain. Very applicable also to all sorts of working and personal life events.
  6. Satisfaction in relationships. Several studies show that a person who is mindful can respond better to relationship stress and be more open to those important talks which we all must have from time to time. This is true in both romantic and platonic relationships!

This is not an exhaustive list of all of the benefits to practising mindfulness (other studies point to enhanced self-insight, changes in morality, increased immune system functioning, reduction to task effort and having thoughts that are not related to the task at hand, to name just a few).

Mindfulness: what is it and why should it matter to you?

How do I practise mindfulness?

The next question I can hear you asking is how do I practice it now that I know how good it is for me?

Essentially, practising mindfulness is really quite easy. It just involves you thinking about what you are doing. Seriously, that’s all. When I say think about what you are doing, however, I mean really think.

When you drink water from a glass take the time to think about the sensation of your skin on the glass, the water moving through your mouth and down your throat. Being fully aware of everything that is happening is mindfulness.

Try it now: grab a drink and pay attention to how it feels to drink it. The liquid moving about your mouth and down towards your digestive system. Is it refreshing? Focus on that. How does your throat feel when swallowing? Take your time and drink slowly.

If you have just done this then congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps in your mindfulness journey!

I will be exploring more ways to be mindful, including of course mindfulness meditation, in the future. Check out this post on how to create a mindfulness habit.

In the meantime, try to fully experience everything you do. Always pay attention to the feelings you have when doing otherwise mundane tasks. From laundry to jogging and bathing to breathing.

If you have experience with mindfulness let us know what it is in the comments below and how it has helped you. Did you practice mindfulness today? Tell us how and what it felt like!

Michael is Amazing
Michael is Amazing
Is the greatest problem with other people ourselves? The self-delusion epidemic.

Is the greatest problem with other people ourselves? The self-delusion epidemic.

In the early 1980s Benjamin Libet conducted a series of experiments where subject’s brains were monitored whilst they chose to initiate an action. It was concluded that the brain was initiating the action before the person became aware of “deciding” to do it. What this study challenged was the concept of ourself being all powerful within us. In guiding our behaviour the conscious self’s role is not quite what we thought it was. When we think about our conscious mind and the power it holds the role is overstated because it feels so powerful. To put it another way, the conscious mind is naturally deluded about its own nature.

The next question is why is this the case? Why would natural selection develop a brain that leaves people deluded about themselves? A possible answer, as put forward by Robert Wright in his book “Why Buddhism is True”, is that if we believe something about ourselves it will be easier to convince other people to believe it too. There’s benefit to it: convincing the world that we are coherent and consistent actors who have things under control. Certainly a boon back in the hunter-gatherer days when you needed other people to survive day to day.

Is the greatest problem with other people ourselves? The self-delusion epidemic.

On its own being coherent of intent, whilst desirable, is not decisive. If you have concrete intent to do something but always fail to do it you won’t find yourself surrounded with people wanting to be your friends. Therefor we must not only act like we have things under control but must be overly positive about how well we have things under control. And guess what? We are acting like that. Anthony Greenwald in 1980 invented the term beneffectance to describe how people naturally present themselves to the world – as beneficial and effective. There have been many, many experiments since which show that not only do people put out this kind of publicity about themselves but they actually believe it.

In fact, one of these studies showed that the majority of people (surveyed) found themselves to be better, in various areas, than the majority of people! But it’s not just when being compared to a vague population that this self-delusion is apparent. It is also when we talk about any teams we are on. Another study asked academics that had jointly worked on a research paper what percentage of the team’s output they accounted for. In an average four-person team the sum of the claimed credit was 140%. Note the keyword: credit. If things didn’t go well, perceived contribution to the outcome shrinks. I.e. it was someone else’s fault.

Is the greatest problem with other people ourselves? The self-delusion epidemic.

People are aware of these forms of self-delusion. People thinking that they are better than they really are. Well, they are aware of self-delusion in other people. In an American study, Kurzban surmised his findings by stating:

We think we are better than average at not being biased in thinking that we’re better than average.

What we can see from all of this is that humanity suffers from two illusions. The first is about the nature of the conscious self, which we consider to have more control than it actually does. The second is about exactly what kind of people we are – namely, capable and upstanding.

In this post I’m more interested in the second illusion: that of being self-deluded. Thinking we are better than we are. That we have more of an impact than we do and that we are more influential than we are. Particularly in relation to other people.

How many times have you found yourself exclaiming, in private to yourself or for others to hear, that you could do a better job than the other person? How often do you lament poor decisions made by others as it isn’t what you would have done? How often have you left your humility at the door and announced how instrumental your actions were in doing a particular thing?

If what we have already read has taught us anything is that the answer to all of those questions, at least at first, is that we don’t overstate ourselves. But that is not really true, is it? Even today whilst pondering this very topic I found myself thinking about how I would do another’s work differently. How their method was undoubtedly inferior to my own. I caught myself in the thought, and after a brief chastising, realised how commonplace such thoughts really are.

Is the greatest problem with other people ourselves? The self-delusion epidemic.

The reality is that we are always overstating our abilities. This essentially gives us all (aside from those “enlightened” few) a superiority complex we won’t admit to. In some cases it might be genuine that you are better at something than another, but often when we think we are we are not.

So ingrained is this self-delusion that simply being aware of it won’t dispel it. Even now that I know to be aware of when I act with a sense of (undeserved) superiority it won’t stop me from acting with it. Like trying to break any bad habit it takes a lot of time and constant reinforcement to change your ways.  Hopefully, with enough time, I can become truly humble. And with that will come a greater understanding and appreciation of others.

Perhaps if we all shared a greater appreciation of others we would have less strife. Less disagreements, arguments and, indeed, wars. We would all be happier with ourselves and others, being able to more easily surround ourselves with good friends without comparing competencies.

Take some time to really think about this topic and if you show any signs of being self-deluded. Treat it as a chance to reflect on yourself and your character.

The first illusion mentioned earlier, that of the conscious self not being in as much control as we think it is, will be the subject of another post. Buddhists refer to it as the non-self. But there is much groundwork for us to look at before we move on to this subject. More importantly, there is much work to be done on showing why it relates and matters to you as my readers!

What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you sometimes find yourself thinking you’re better at something then you actually are? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,


About Michael is Amazing

What does happiness mean to me?

Aside from being the title of a decent Amy MacDonald song (“What happiness means to me” – perhaps most notable for an excellent cover of “Dancing in the Dark” which follows on the same track) I do sometimes wonder what happiness means to me.

Happiness can come in short bursts, upon the completion of an act which brings it, or can be longer lasting, such as the happiness that comes from fulfilment. Some people call this second type of happiness “true happiness” although I would disagree with that to a point. We should take happiness in any place we can find it.

Continue reading “What does happiness mean to me?”