It’s important to understand the difference between state mindfulness and trait mindfulness (dispositional mindfulness).
If you want to get the most out of your meditation and mindfulness practice, you need to understand how to do both these methods, and the benefits of each.
Let’s take a look at trait mindfulness vs state mindfulness, and then discuss ways to improve both.
What Is Dispositional Mindfulness (Trait Mindfulness)?
Before we look at the practice and benefits of these two forms of mindfulness, let’s take a quick look at what each one means.
Trait or Dispositional mindfulness is defined as being aware in a non-judgmental way, generally, this also means improved attention.
State mindfulness is the specific practice of mindfulness meditation, which is one of the main forms of Buddhist meditation.
The majority of scientific research up to now has focused on state mindfulness; that is: the practice of performing mindfulness meditation [READ: Benefits of meditation list]. Recently, however, we have started to see more research into the benefits of trait mindfulness (being generally mindful in day to day life).
It’s important to know that dispositional mindfulness does not necessarily require any formal meditation practice, and there are indeed ways to develop mindfulness without meditating.
That said, trait mindfulness and state mindfulness are related, and practising one will generally enhance the other.
Examples of dispositional mindfulness
Some examples of dispositional mindfulness include:
- You are generally aware and non-judgemental of your thoughts and feelings.
- You are able to focus on the task you are doing
- When you listen to people, you give them your full attention
- You have good eating habits, eat mindfully, and are always aware when you are eating.
- You do not go on “auto-pilot” and instead are consciously aware of your actions.
- Overall, you have high attention levels.
- You live in the moment.
Benefits of dispositional mindfulness
According to research by Springer Mindfulness (published on the National Institute of Health), cultivating dispositional mindfulness has been shown to reduce psychopathological symptoms including depression, to reduce PTSD symptoms, and to help with eating pathology, as well as offering general improvements to wellbeing.
Plus, research conducted in 2014 by Shaanxi University and Beijing University revealed a link between dispositional mindfulness and life satisfaction, with researchers stating, “mindfulness signiﬁcantly predicted core self-evaluations and life satisfaction.” So if you’ve been looking to boost your happiness levels, you certainly might like to develop dispositional mindfulness.
What’s even more amazing is that researchers even found that women are attracted to men with high levels of dispositional mindfulness. That’s right, lads, instead of developing your six-pack you might want to just be more mindful. Sadly, the opposite is not true for men. Men are not more attracted to women based on levels of mindfulness.
Overall, researchers state that with the increasing need for free health tools, dispositional mindfulness could offer a highly valuable approach to wellbeing.
The Dispositional Mindfulness Scale
You might wonder what level of dispositional mindfulness you possess. If so, you might like to take the Dispisitional Mindfulness Scale.
The Dispositional Mindfulness Scale is a 15-question questionnaire that explores the different aspects of dispositional mindfulness, such as how aware you are in the present moment, how observant and in-control of your emotions you are, and whether you immediately forget peoples’ names (which I personally do every day, to hilarious results!).
The Dispositional Mindfulness Scale has been scientifically validated and is one of the best ways to measure your mindfulness. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes.
Ways To Increase Dispositional Mindfulness
1: Get the trait via the state
One of the best ways of increasing trait mindfulness is to practice state mindfulness. That is, to meditate.
Spend twenty minutes a day sitting with your eyes closed, watching your breath moving through your body. If you experience thoughts or feelings, label or describe them without judging them. This will improve your trait mindfulness levels.
One easy way to develop the trait of mindfulness is to set reminders.
Create a relaxing alarm on your phone. For instance, set it so that every couple of hours it plays the sounds of birdsong. Then, when you hear the sound, stop what you are doing and spend five minutes focusing on your senses. Notice the world through scents, sights, tastes, feelings, and sounds. This will make you more aware of the present moment and of the world around you.
3: Pay attention to what you’re doing
There’s an old Zen proverb that says, “When sitting sit.”
The proverb reminds us to focus on whatever it is that we are doing. It doesn’t matter whether we are eating, exercising, working, or just watching TV, we can choose to do absolutely anything in a mindful way.
Frequently remind yourself what you are currently doing, and then pay attention to that one thing until it is complete.
4: Listen attentively
I think this is the trait of mindfulness that makes women more attracted to mindful men. Listening. People with levels of high dispositional mindfulness are excellent listeners. When someone is speaking, they pay absolute attention to what they are saying, without losing focus.
When listening, listen. Tune in to the sounds of the other person’s voice. Meditate on it. Be attentive to what they are saying. You know, do what the perfect boyfriend would do.
5: Practice mindful activities
Here’s a big list of mindfulness exercises.
Each of those exercises is designed to cultivate the trait of mindfulness. The exercises range from mindful art to mindful eating.
Simple go through the list and find a few exercises you will think you will enjoy. Or try a different exercise each day.
If you’ve been meditating, you really must put effort into developing dispositional mindfulness. Science suggests that trait mindfulness and state mindfulness (meditating) may be equally beneficial, so it is worth practising both.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison