Mindfulness: what is it and how to develop it?

Each person periodically encounters distraction of attention due to extraneous thoughts that prevent them from concentrating on the necessary actions. Special workouts can help you come to a state of concentration and increase your mindfulness.

What it is?

The description of the word «mindfulness» comes down to its two meanings, one of which is courtesy, showing attention to someone, caring. A concept with a second meaning belongs to the field of psychology. It is reflected in the following definition: mindfulness is a property of consciousness based on increased focus and concentration of attention on some object, phenomenon or activity.

The quality of a person reflects the ability or inability of a person to use the basic properties of attention: volume, direction, focusing, distribution, intensity, tension, stability and switchability.

These properties are inextricably linked with the activity carried out by the subject. At the initial stage, attention is evenly distributed to several phenomena or objects. At this moment, there is still no stable concentration. Then consciousness singles out the most important actions or objects necessary for a particular job. Mental processes begin to fix them.

Mindfulness depends on the ability to concentrate, focus attention on the main thing with distraction from secondary data, unnecessary stimuli during the performance of any activity. With a poorly developed arbitrariness of mental processes, fixing attention on the desired object occurs with difficulty. Babies have a hard time keeping their attention on something for long periods of time. Noise in the classroom or thoughts of an upcoming football game may prevent a student from concentrating on a written assignment. Thus, concentration of attention when performing certain actions is usually difficult in the presence of external stimuli or distant thoughts.

In psychology, mindfulness is not considered an independent mental process. It reflects the signs of other processes. The subject acts, thinks, listens, looks attentively or inattentively. Mindfulness as a personality trait is formed as a result of attention training. Some manage to achieve mastery in the ability to concentrate on a very boring task.

Such a process sometimes testifies to the high competence of an employee demonstrating excellent results in the structure of professional work.


In psychology, 3 levels of the possibility of using mindfulness by a person are described.

  • The passive degree may be due to involuntary attention. It is established and maintained regardless of the desire of the subject. The impact of the stimulus involuntarily creates a short-term setting that is not realized by the person himself. The psychological state of the individual and past experience make it possible to recognize stimuli and quickly engage in habitual activities. The disadvantages of involuntary attention include a decrease in the productivity of work in general. The reasons for passive mindfulness are:

    1. moving objects;
    2. surprise, strength or novelty of the stimulus;
    3. contrast of actions or objects;
    4. mental state of the individual.
  • Voluntary attentiveness is based on the conscious control of one’s own attention, systematic concentration on a particular work. Psychological features include its accompaniment by the experience of tension and volitional effort. This level of attention has the following types:
    1. in fact, arbitrary mindfulness is aimed at achieving a pre-selected goal;
    2. strong-willed concentration helps to abstract from distracting factors and concentrate on a specific matter;
    3. expectant attentiveness is associated with vigilance, alertness.
  • Postvoluntary Mindfulness Stage means the presence of a conscious focus on the object of attention in the absence of tension inherent in arbitrary concentration.

The emergence of a new attitude is associated with the relevance of actions, and not with the subject’s previous experience.

What skills does mindfulness provide?

This quality allows a person to improve his skills in the search for various shortcomings, the possibility of comparison. Attentive people develop the ability to notice any changes, fix in their heads what they see or feel. Writers and artists are distinguished by their ability to observe things that ordinary people most often do not pay attention to. Creative natures tend to describe a person in detail after a fleeting meeting with him.

Mindfulness is related to observation. Eyewitnesses of any one incident can describe it in different ways. This depends on their ability to exercise observation, which consists in the ability to notice significant or subtle details. A professional point of view may differ significantly from the opinion of an amateur, whose adequacy of perception of reality will be much lower.

Many professionals require attention to detail. The employee is given instructions on the sequence in which to perform actions, at what stage to check one part, at what point — another element. Such an algorithm helps a person in professional matters. For example, a watchmaker needs to arrange microscopic parts so that the entire watch mechanism works smoothly.

Mindfulness, under certain circumstances, has saved people’s lives more than once. In order to develop this quality, parents from childhood instill in their child the ability to cross the road correctly: “First look to the left, then to the right, make sure you are safe and only then start moving.”

What could be causing the decline?

Attention problems can occur due to stress, anxiety, depression, malnutrition, poor sleep, lack of physical activity. The advent of the Internet has led to a decrease in focus on something important. Social networks, instant messengers with notifications turned on constantly distract the user. It is sometimes impossible to concentrate when showing maximum effort due to reading books from a mobile device in the evening. Links scattered across the page, a large number of open tabs scatter a person’s attention.

The following reasons often lead to a decrease in attentiveness:

  • fatigue, overexertion of the nervous system;
  • the need to perform multiple tasks simultaneously;
  • low level of motivation, interest of the subject;
  • unwillingness to make extra efforts, laziness;
  • age-related changes associated with a disorder of brain activity;
  • distraction as a personality trait.

Practices for improvement

There are many different techniques with which you can get rid of inattention. Techniques that can organize the focus of the subject on details are especially effective. When counting objects of the same type, it is recommended to concentrate on their number from 4 to 10. For example, try to remember 4 items of clothing for any passerby, try to create a logical chain. Before going to bed, recall in your memory what you focused your attention on during the day. Try counting cars of a certain color passing by, or simultaneously counting the poplars and birches you meet on your way home.

Numbers are randomly scattered in the Schulte table. They should be found and mentally arranged in the desired sequence: from 1 to 25. Concentrating on the necessary numbers and isolating them train the brain. The task should take no more than 4 minutes to complete. You can complicate the task by arranging numbers of different sizes and colors in order. You can find illustrations with a lot of numbers.

Tasks designed to compare two pictures that differ from each other in minor elements can draw attention to details. When looking for differences, the work of the brain is aimed at finding subtle details. In this way, mindfulness and observation are trained. Drawing by cells and graphic dictations are reduced to the image of repeating elements of the pattern.

Simultaneous mirror drawing with two hands of circles, triangles, squares, zigzags, while maintaining smooth lines and sharp corners, trains attention and develops the right hemisphere of the brain.

During the exercise on the perception of the color spectrum in the Stroop table, it is required to say out loud not the written word, but its coloring. The difficulty is that the word «yellow» can be written in red, and «green» can have a blue tone. It’s confusing. Overcoming this dissonance improves the ability to focus one’s attention.

Various games are of great importance in the development of mindfulness, since they always contain certain rules and actions that require concentration and observation. Playing checkers and chess also contributes to the development of intelligence. The old fun “Don’t take black and white, and don’t say no” suggests questions that provoke an answer with a forbidden word. The player needs to respond quickly and at the same time thoughtfully.

The games «Sea battle», «Show the bug» develop concentration and concentration of attention in children and adults. The game «Memory» trains the observation well. It is necessary to remember the objects lying on the table. Then a person turns away. His partner at this time removes one thing. Turning, the player must name the disappeared item.

Especially for children, the Magic Squares technique has been developed, the purpose of which is to develop attention among schoolchildren. It is a modification of the Sudoku puzzle. At the initial stage, the child must find one number in the window, then they need to find 1-2, then 2-3, and until the sum of the numbers in each row, column and on both diagonals becomes the same.

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