By Carey Davidson
Life is busy. Running a business, raising kids, staying connected with friends and keeping up with what’s going on in the world can be overwhelming. It can leave us feeling unbalanced, unfulfilled and like we’re missing out on those special moments in life. Thankfully, there are many techniques to help us regain control and more fully enjoy the beauty of each day.
Mindfulness is one technique you’ve probably heard about. While it’s a hot buzzword today, it actually has a long history. With origins in Buddhist meditation, modern-day mindfulness is a science-backed secular practice. It was developed by professor and author, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.
What is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is about observation without criticism – being compassionate with yourself. It helps you to live in the moment and awaken to the full experience of life.
Benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness changes you over time. It helps you understand, tolerate and deal with your emotions in healthy ways. It allows you to be happier and healthier. A report by Harvard Health Publications summarizes how mindfulness improves your physical and mental health as well as your overall well-being:
Physical health: Relieves stress, treats heart disease, lowers blood pressure, reduces chronic pain, improves sleep and alleviates gastrointestinal difficulties
Mental health: Helps treat depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples’ conflicts, anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder
Overall well-being: Allows you to savor the pleasures in life as they occur; become fully engaged in activities; have a greater capacity to deal with adverse events; form deep connections with others; worry less about the future and past regrets; and have fewer concerns about success and self-esteem
Getting started living mindfully
Mindfulness certainly sounds amazing, but with everything else we’re juggling, do we really have time to add yet another thing to our plates? The thought of change can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. I like the following four simple tips for getting started offered by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkley:
- Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
- Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
- Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
- Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.
For a more in-depth understanding of how to incorporate mindfulness into your life, you can participate in the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn - see below for Tournesol's next series!
Click here to learn more and register for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at Tournesol!
Want to know how mindful you are? Here’s a short quiz.
Hear how Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness in these videos.
What is Mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness