When someone is described as being mindful, it typically means they pay attention to what is happening to the mind, body, and surroundings, and they remain present while both curious and compassionate.
But what does mindfulness do?
One of the best definitions comes from Dr. Shauna Shapiro (2020):
“Mindfulness helps us see clearly so we can make wise choices and respond to life effectively.”
This simple statement captures the ability of mindfulness to help us take a breath and make more considered decisions that improve our lives.
And isn’t that what we all want?
Imagine your life based on choices made from the heart that line up with your core values. That’s what you get – most of the time – when you are mindful.
And yet, practicing mindfulness can feel solitary or perhaps even lonely. So, what do you do?
The answer comes from one of our most basic human needs: seek companionship. Group mindfulness offers fellowship, support, and learnings that may be absent when practicing alone.
This article discusses the benefits of performing mindfulness with others and describes activities that work well in a group setting.
Before you continue, you might like to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free. These science-based comprehensive exercises will help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life and also give you tools to enhance the mindfulness of your groups.
What Is Group Mindfulness?
Humans are social animals. We have evolved to connect and share our thoughts and beliefs with other like-minded individuals.
And we don’t need to be on our own to be mindful.
While mindfulness can be learned through books, apps, audio, and videos, there are times when practicing within a group setting provides better results.
Indeed, over the last two decades, the popularity of mindfulness has soared, as have the opportunities to connect with others on a similar journey. Groups are now available in meetups, workplaces, healthcare providers, and gyms.
We all need motivation, even when we know something is good for us. Whether it’s going for a run, eating well, or practicing mindfulness, we sometimes need support.
To increase the likelihood that we persist, we must be intrinsically motivated – driven by internal rewards – and meet our basic psychological needs (Ryan & Deci, 2018).
For group mindfulness to sustain and maintain our commitment, we need to feel connected. We must experience a sense of belonging and own our decisions and actions while experiencing opportunities, support, skill development, and growth as an individual.
Indeed, organized group meditation provides an opportunity for those who might not practice alone to show up.
Taking our three key psychological needs (Ryan & Deci, 2018) in turn, we look at how organized group meditation meets them and enhances our motivation.
Like any activity, when performed as part of a group, we can motivate one another.
Having others present during a mindfulness session can boost our resolve and provide a sense of ‘we are in this together,’ especially when we are prone to distraction. Booking time and committing to others can mean we are more likely to turn up.
Social facilitation theory suggests that people act better or deliver more when they are being watched or competing with others.
Surprisingly, individuals even eat more when part of a group than when alone (Herman, 2017).
We all doubt our abilities; it’s part of being human, yet we crave feelings of competence (Ryan & Deci, 2018).
Having the support of a group and the opportunity to talk about the difficulties we face can help calm fears and doubts.
If the leader makes time for the group to discuss the challenges they face, each session can provide a valuable opportunity to share solutions.
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