What are the 7 Principles of Mindfulness?
These seven principles of mindfulness were introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). If you’re looking for guidance on how to begin working towards these principles, we recommend taking an MBSR class with a qualified instructor who can help you.
It’s common to hear we should be non-judgmental of others. After all, you never know someone else’s story, what they are going through, or their inner thoughts. But why don’t we offer that same grace to ourselves? Have you ever found yourself mad at your own thoughts, maybe saying “a good person wouldn’t even think that,” or “why can’t I just do this/think differently/be normal?” If so, you are not alone, but those judgmental thoughts are not helpful. Mindfulness training can help you look at those thoughts, consider them, and move past them without judging yourself for having them. An important component of mindfulness is that we are not our thoughts. They are simply thoughts.
2. Beginner’s Mind
The beginner’s mind may be a familiar concept, as it’s used in other areas as well. In the context of mindfulness, it is about simplicity. Rather than coming to a situation with the weight of past ideas and experiences, the beginner’s mind asks you to arrive knowing that you do not know everything. As no moment is the same as another, every moment allows you a chance to learn. Being open and curious can help save you from being stuck in a rut.
Trust may seem like the odd one out of this list, because so much of these principles is about changing your mindset. Here, we are asking you to trust your instincts. This is actually a natural step with all of the other principles, because in the 21st century, it is all too easy to get lost in the noise of what other people think is “moral” or “right.” While adhering to (some) principles and (some) societal norms is an important part of existing in the world, it is also essential that we do not unthinkingly trust principles or norms. The choices you make should be based on your own thoughts and beliefs, not on what the world tells you is the correct way to exist.
If you are always reaching for the next thing, never satisfied with where you are, how can you be happy or celebrate a victory? Often, people find themselves trying for another achievement, or another purchase, or “just one more” anything else that will make them finally content, but they never reach that state because of their mindset. Rather than always looking ahead to the next thing, it is important to take time to appreciate the moment. You don’t always need to be working to be different or better or anything else. It’s okay to take time to enjoy who and where you are. And, once you’re no longer always looking towards the future, non-striving can also help you see what is important in the present moment.
The only moment we can live in is the present moment. It isn’t possible to predict the future, and ruminating on the past is not helpful because we cannot change what came before. Mindfulness can help you learn to pay attention to the present moment and be truly in it, rather than wishing the future would hurry up and come already or that something will change.
Acceptance can be a hard one, which is why we’ve included acknowledgement as another word for the concept. Acceptance does not mean approval or compliance in every situation. As a mindfulness principle, acceptance means seeing the present moment as it truly is, taking it in, and living with that knowledge. You can accept a fact and decide to change it, if that seems like the appropriate choice to you. This principle is not about keeping things the same, but it is about letting go of denial or ignorance and accepting or acknowledging what is happening in the moment.
7. Letting Go/Letting Be
It is way too easy to fixate on things that we cannot change. Human brains are good at that. But ruminating on a situation can become incredibly unhealthy. Rather than fixating, mindfulness can help you accept the present moment and let go of stress. Or, as the alternative suggests, just let the world be how it is.
To see more like this list of the seven principles of mindfulness, click here for a list of the nine attitudes of mindfulness.