Mindfulness Self-Assessment: How Do You Know if You’re Mindful?

People who teach yoga and mindfulness practices are often asked “What exactly is mindfulness?” They answer the question in a variety of different ways mostly depending on the context in which the question is asked, and the nature of the audience they’re addressing. Recently, a group of yoga teachers developed a new and interesting way of answering this question. It’s really a very old method – the Socratic Method. Here’s what we mean: they created what they call “Mindfulness and Emotional Assessments” into their practice, and now answer the question “What is Mindfulness?” with a series of questions of their own. Their rationale is that the best way to understand something is to gain experiential knowledge of it.

Or, to learn what that something is by giving it a shot – by doing it.

In this article, we’ll share the mindfulness and emotional assessments these teachers developed. Although these assessments are teaching tools created for the benefit of students, they’re also beneficial for anyone in recovery. They help to remind people of several things:

  • There’s always more work to do.
  • An individual’s level of awareness and ability to focus (i.e. mindfulness) varies from day to day.
  • It always helps to get back to basics.

Mindfulness Assessments

The goal with both assessments is to teach students to become more aware of their mental and emotional states, to tune in to them, to understand how they work, to understand where they reside in their bodies, and to pay attention to how their awareness moves through their bodies. In short, what they teach is mindfulness. And in this context, mindfulness is simple. It is not abstract, and it is not passive: mindfulness means slow down and pay close attention. The results of this assessment are not necessarily quantitative: in first two, the time/duration is an indicator of your level of mindfulness, but the purpose is to give you an idea of whether mindfulness comes easily to you, or it’s something you need to practice: one is not better than the other – they’re snapshots of where you are, and give you an idea of where you want to go.

Mindfulness Assessment

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a straight-backed chair, or lie on your back on the floor. Settle down, relax, and get comfortable. Can you focus your attention on your breath without distraction? To assess yourself, get a kitchen timer, situate yourself so you can see a clock on the wall, or use the timer function on your cell phone. Start the timer, and return your focus to your breath. When your mind wanders from your breath, check your time. Your first goal is to focus on just your breath for one minute. Repeat this exercise until you can focus on your breathing for at least five minutes.
  2. Sit comfortably on the floor, in a straight-backed chair, or lie on the floor. Settle down, relax, and get comfortable. Can you focus your attention on your body without distraction, and identify the sensations there? To assess yourself, get a kitchen timer, situate yourself so you can see a clock on the wall, or use the timer function on your cell phone. Start the timer, and return your focus to your body. When your attention wanders from the immediate sensations in your body, check your time. Your first goal is to your attention on your body for one minute. Repeat this exercise until you can focus your attention for at least five minutes.

Emotional Assessment

  1. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a straight-backed chair, or lie on your back on the floor. Settle down, relax, and get comfortable. Can you focus your attention on your emotional state? This exercise is not timed. It’s a simple yes/no assessment.
  2. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a straight-backed chair, or lie on your back on the floor. Settle down, relax, and get comfortable. Can you locate where in your body you’re feeling your emotions? This exercise is not timed, either. Like the preceding exercise, it’s a simple yes/no assessment.
  3. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a straight-backed chair, or lie on your back on the floor. Settle down, relax, and get comfortable. Can you identify, without judgment, what your emotional state is? This is a simple yes/no assessment.

Mindfulness: What Exactly Is It?

Mindfulness can be defined in many ways. No definition is any more correct than any other, though, because mindfulness is not a concrete, fixed thing. Though often associated with meditation, calmness, and stillness, mindfulness is dynamic. It’s a process. Mindfulness is a quality of attention. Mindfulness is the relationship of an individual to whatever is happening in the moment. If you brought yourself fully and honestly to the exercises above, then you know exactly what mindfulness is. Which means you are now your own best mindfulness resource, and we’re sure you can see how these mindfulness assessments – and mindfulness in general – can help you on your recovery journey.