Nature or nurture? How mindfulness can help us to overcome set behaviours

The nature vs. nurture debate has been an important and longstanding topic in psychology. ‘Nature’ is viewed as those qualities that are genetic, while ‘nurture’ refers to those traits learned from our life’s experiences.

It’s hard to know what causes us to become stuck into a particular way of behaving.

Many wonder whether there’s a solution to dealing with those set behaviours – particularly the ones we’d prefer we didn’t have, the ones we know are dysfunctional and unhelpful.

Yes there is, it’s called “mindfulness”!

How does mindfulness work?

Mindfulness has been described as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose . . . awareness of the unfolding of experience moment to moment”[1]. That sounds wordy, but read it a couple of times and let it sink in.

How can we cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives?

Rather than merely going through the motion of life like a ‘machine’ on automatic pilot, mindfulness is a way of learning to relate to our life. It encourages us to stop momentarily and capture our impressions, thoughts and behaviours – then ask our self: “Is this reaction working for me or isn’t it? Do I want this behaviour in my life? Could I do better without it?”

Through mindfulness we become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and emotional reactions.

With mindfulness, we remain alert and learn to respond more appropriately to situations. It can help us to “see” our behaviour and thinking patterns, and to consciously choose what we want to keep and what we can, and possibly should, live without.

What are some of the benefits associated with practicing mindfulness?

Practicing mindfulness helps us to:

  • deepen our awareness and train us to be more observant of what goes on in our mind, our body, and the environment
  • improve focus and concentration.
  • decrease our stress reactions.
  • increase our ability to cope with physically or emotionally difficult situations.
  • increase overall well-being and balance, and
  • notice and appreciate the world around us.

Mindfulness is a practice that improves physical and emotional health and enhances our appreciation of life.

Try it and see!

[1] Prof Mark Williams, University of Oxford, and Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre

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