What is it?
Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the foremost contemporary mindfulness teachers and researchers, is “Paying attention on purpose and in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. It is the heart of any meditation practice and can be practiced moment to moment as we go through our daily lives, e.g. driving to work, washing your hair, eating your lunch. It is simply bringing our attention back to this moment of our experience whenever we get distracted.
How does it work?
Mindfulness is something we learn through repeated practice. The practice is simply to notice (without judgment) when our thinking minds have pulled us away from our present moment, and bring our attention gently back to what is happening right now. It can be practiced while focusing on breathing, doing yoga, or any other activity during the day so it doesn’t necessarily require special time set aside.
What are the benefits?
When we are stressed, anxious and/or depressed, our nervous systems become hyper-aroused and this increases the number and negativity of our thoughts. It also increases our heart rates and blood pressure, increases muscle tension, and increases our blood sugar. It is very taxing and straining on us physically and psychologically. Practicing mindfulness, focusing on what is actually happening inside and outside us at this moment of our lives, calms the nervous system, thereby slowing heart rate and blood pressure, relaxing muscle tension, and lowering blood sugar. When we are calmer and more centered, we can enjoy the good things that are in our lives, and recognize a more full range of choices in how to deal with our challenges.
A growing number of research studies are showing that mindfulness practice has a wide range of benefits.
Physical and Psychological Benefits include:
- better sleep
- less pain
- a feeling of empowerment
- feeling calmer and more grounded
- relief of depression symptoms
- greater ability to manage strong emotion
- more gratitude and positive emotion
Rather than letting your thinking mind dominate and keep your attention elsewhere, mindfulness is a practice that helps us reclaim the only moment we have to live — right now