Practical Applications of Mindfulness: Paying Attention and Being Aware

(3 min read)

How does practicing mindfulness help you show up better in your work and home life?

Taking a step back, if you were able to pay better attention in the present moment, you might:

  • Get distracted less easily.
  • Get more things done (be more productive) while feeling less overwhelmed.
  • Improve your memory.
  • Connect better with people (imagine being more present with the person you’re talking to instead of your mind/attention wandering off).

Complementing the ability to pay attention is the concept of awareness.

Increasing your overall awareness can have several benefits too:

  • Noticing more quickly when you do get distracted.
  • More easily aware of the signs of stress or illness (so you can proactively deal with them sooner).
  • Knowing when you need to move your body after sitting for long periods of time (Anyone with a desk job or working from home, this is you! How often do you get up and move every hour?)
  • Realizing addictive behaviour (to your smartphone, social media, email, food/drink, substances, etc.)
  • Aware of things going on inside you (e.g., negative thought patterns) and how they are affecting you.
  • Aware of things going on around you and how they are affecting you.

With increased awareness, you can make more conscious and informed decisions. And who doesn’t like making better decisions?

The good news is that everyone is already able to pay attention (to a certain extent) and has a general awareness, though the amount varies greatly from person to person. The even better news is that these are qualities you can train to become stronger and more automatic.

In the course of practicing mindfulness you are training the attention (think of it like a muscle) to focus on an object of your choosing, and to keep the attention there. This is typically focusing on the breath or physical sensations.

When the attention wanders (note: completely normal!), it may wander to a physical sensation, sound, thought, emotion, etc. During mindfulness practice, when you notice the attention has wandered, you then bring it back to the initial object of attention (breath or physical sensations). That moment when you notice the attention has wandered – that’s awareness! You are fully aware the attention has wandered and are now back in the present moment.

By repeating this cycle during formal mindfulness practice (attention wandering, noticing, bringing it back), you are strengthening both your attentional capacity and your awareness. These skills are transferrable to your daily life, outside mindfulness practice. And they come into daily life automatically too – if you strengthen your ability to pay attention and be aware during mindfulness practice, you are more easily able to pay attention and are more aware in everyday life – no extra steps needed.

Training in mindfulness, and by that I mean deliberate time regularly put aside to focus your attention on the breath/body, will improve your ability to keep your attention focused longer, notice it has wandered more quickly (awareness), and bring the attention back more easily.

So, how would strengthening your ability to pay attention and being more aware improve your life?

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