The Real Meaning of Mindfulness

For most of us, the idea of mindfulness often invokes the image of someone sitting still, eyes closed, in complete silence, looking serene. We imagine this person has an empty mind, devoid of all distracting thoughts and emotions, working to achieve a supreme state called enlightenment. This picture however, couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Mindfulness is, simply, paying attention to the present moment, with intention and without judgement. Mindfulness can take many forms and the best news is that there’s no wrong way to do it. Being mindful is not about completely emptying your mind and achieving some out-of-body state. It’s about taking a pause, stepping back and focusing on the present moment, whatever that looks like. You could do this at any point in the day, for any amount of time – while washing the dishes, lying in bed after you wake up in the morning, or whenever you are feeling flooded with emotions.  

There is a lot of research on the positive health benefits of keeping a regular mindful practice (including stress reduction, improved mood, better sleep and reduced pain) and the big one to note is that it promotes happiness.  

If you are dealing with the effects of cancer and are interested in learning how to be more mindful, please join our next 8-week online mindfulness program led by a registered psychotherapist. In these weekly, one-hour sessions, you will learn and practice mindfulness-based techniques, such as relaxation, visualization and meditation. 

Here’s a quick and easy tip to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life: 

  • Once a day, choose to take three deep breaths while becoming aware of the sights, sounds and smells around you.  
  • When other thoughts come up such as your to-do list, that’s okay! Gently remind yourself to continue focusing on your surroundings and the present moment you are in.  

Any time we choose to mindfully do an activity – where we consciously try to focus on that activity – we are practicing mindfulness. This can immediately start to create a beneficial change in our well-being and experience of life. 

Author: Kerry Gilman, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre Intern