Mindfulness refers to being in the present moment without judgment, while awareness implies a processing of information. Mindful awareness is the opposite of that familiar autopilot mode when your brain is a million miles away from reality.
Operating from habit is helpful in many situations. Numerous small, unimportant decisions through the day add up to mental fatigue. You can minimize those through habit, so energy is available for more important things.
The problems arise when we participate mindlessly during experiences we want to remember, in situations which could cause us harm, or when we try to grasp new skills.
Proactive interference is when what you already know impedes your ability to take in new information, like constantly returning to the old drawer for measuring cups when you reorganize the kitchen. A misplaced kitchen utensil is one thing, but failing to notice something that could harm you or your family (because you’re on autopilot and aren’t taking in all the data) is quite another.
That’s where mindfulness comes in. Studies show that mindfulness training (meditation) lessens proactive interference in daily life and increases the ability to learn new things—useful for brain health, stress management, and personal safety.
Awareness is amplified when we evaluate the messages we take in, like the input of all our senses. When we direct our attention fully to our interactions with our environment, we have more significant moments. Paying attention on purpose strengthens connections with others and magnifies memories of positive experiences, both of which can make you happier.
This situational awareness is critical for personal safety. The next time you’re going for a run with your earbuds cranked up, check that you can still take in essential signs about your environment.
Try These Resources
Are you still paying attention? Good! That means you might already be practicing some of the mindful awareness tips listed above. They are just a few more ways we’re trying to help you make your health possible.