Reducing stress and reconnecting with the present moment through mindfulness
We’re pulled in many different directions every day. And our minds blindly follow. We worry about upcoming appointments and wonder if bills were paid. All the while checking our phones, keeping an eye on our kids, and trying to survive the commute home. These competing demands can make us oblivious as insights, precious moments or many other of life’s best experiences pass us by.
Reconnecting with the present and making sense of the ongoing stress in our lives is the essence of mindfulness. Jon Kabat Zinn, known as the godfather of modern mindfulness, describes the practice this way: “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”1
Many reasons for mindfulness
Given how truly busy our lives are, it’s fair to ask, who has time for mindfulness anyway? Or why does it even matter? The facts are integrating mindfulness into our daily lives is surprisingly simple, easy and cheap. And growing medical research supports the psychological, physical and emotional benefits. Here are some reasons why mindfulness matters.
- Boosts our physical health by slowing things down: Practicing mindfulness makes you more aware of yourself, your body and surroundings. In turn, it clears your head, slows down your thoughts and nervous system, helping you cope with stress. As a result, regular practice can lead to lower blood pressure, better sleep and increased immune function, among other physical benefits.
- Nurtures our mental health by teaching acceptance: Mindfulness helps us to accept our experiences and the parts of our life we cannot change. This includes accepting painful emotions and channeling your attention without judgement, rather than reacting with hostility or remaining in denial. Gaining this perspective helps you to overcome irrational and self-defeating thoughts that can fuel depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.
- Revives our zest for life: By redirecting our focus to the present moment, it eases the needless worry we feel about uncontrollable events coming up in the future or what has happened in the past. This allows you to more easily savour the pleasures of life as they happen, engage in activities and find creativity, while alleviating our preoccupation with more superficial measures like success, wealth or social status.
Go get mindful
You can practice mindfulness anytime and anywhere. You don’t need any special equipment or gadgets. It’s accessible to anyone, regardless of religion or belief. And it’s not just about meditation. There are many ways of practicing, such as mindful observation of your surroundings, mindful awareness of yourself or mindful breathing. You can learn more about becoming mindful by visiting mindful.org or headspace.com.
1 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, 2005