What Is Mindfulness? Definition + Benefits (Incl. Psychology)

February 15, 2021 - 05:00 AM - 6476 views

You’ve heard of mindfulness. Maybe you’ve even tried practicing mindfulness or read about its role in helping to manage stress. You’re not alone—we live in an extremely fast-paced world, and sometimes, we forget to check in with ourselves.

In this article, we’ll look at what mindfulness really means, how you can use the practice in your day-to-day life. What’s the point of mindfulness? We’ll cover that too, and hopefully, you’ll be able to see why the concept has become so intensely popular in mainstream media.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Mindfulness Exercises for free. These science-based, comprehensive exercises will not only help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life but will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students or employees.

What Is the Meaning of Mindfulness?

It’s not uncommon for people to equate mindfulness with meditation. It’s true that meditation is one extremely powerful way to practice mindfulness, but that’s not all there is to it.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA.org, 2012), mindfulness is:

“…a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. In this sense, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.”

As we can see, mindfulness is a state that can be brought on through practice. It’s not static, nor are some people ‘born more mindful’ than others. It involves awareness, and impartiality about what we gain from this awareness. In an age of social media, where opinions, likes, and commentary are more than forthcoming, it’s easy to see how non-judgmental reflection can be a welcome change.

Another definition comes from Jon Kabat Zinn, who enjoys significant global renown for his work on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR):

“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, in Purser, 2015).

This is the more widely accepted definition in practitioner and academic literature, and perhaps more descriptive for those who want to start practicing. As well as awareness, Kabat-Zinn tells us to focus conscious attention on the ‘right here, right now’. It’s a concept that most who practice meditation will already be familiar with, and it’s why the two often go hand in hand.

Dictionary and Encyclopedia Definitions:

For a straightforward, concise definition of mindfulness, general reference books like dictionaries and encyclopedias are good places to look.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“[Mindfulness is] the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”


“[Mindfulness is] the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.”

Cambridge Dictionary

“[Mindfulness is] the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.”


“Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”


Synonyms for mindfulness include: alertness, carefulness, caution, circumspection, concentration, concern, conscientiousness, consideration, diligence, direction, discrimination, effort, enthusiasm, exactness, exertion, fastidiousness, forethought, heed, heedfulness, interest, management, meticulousness, nicety, pains, particularity, precaution, prudence, regard, scrupulousness, solicitude, thought, trouble, vigilance, wariness, watchfulness.

Those are helpful as a starting point, but what does mindfulness mean beyond these dry, general definitions?

Definitions of Mindfulness According to Organizations

Organizations dedicated to increasing mindfulness have also offered definitions of the concept. If you’re interested in a specific kind of mindfulness, reading definitions written by organizations with that same focus can be especially helpful.


“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us” (“What Is Mindfulness?,” 2014).

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World

“Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself” (What Is Mindfulness?,” n.d.).

White Wind Zen Community

“Mindfulness is wordless. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is. It is opening to not just the fragments of our lives that we like or dislike or view as important, but the whole of our experiencing” (“The Meaning of Mindfulness,” n.d.).

Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment” (“Mindfulness definition | What is mindfulness,” n.d.).

Mindful Awareness Research Center at the University of California at Los Angeles

“Mindful Awareness is the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences” (“Frequently Asked Questions,” n.d.).


“Mindfulness has many synonyms. You could call it awareness, attention, focus, presence, or vigilance. The opposite, then, is not just mindlessness, but also distractedness, inattention, and lack of engagement” (Pinola, 2014).

Psychology Today

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present” (“Mindfulness,” n.d.).

Mayo Clinic

“Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every momentwithout interpretation or judgment” (“Can Mindfulness Exercises Help Me?,” 2018).

Reach Out

“Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. When a person is mindful, they: (1) focus on the present moment, (2) try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future, (3) purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them, [and] (4) try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’” (“How to Practise Mindfulness,” n.d.).

Sideways Thoughts

“Mindfulness is a matter of being fully present in the moment” (Renando, 2014).

Read the rest of this fascinating article here!  

See also

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Songs, Stories, and Healing

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Alternative Cancer Treatments


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