Understanding Mindfulness

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way"

"On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." -Jon Kabat-Zinn"

Click one of these links to learn more:
What is mindfulness?
Why is mindfulness important?
How do I get started?
Minfulness resources

Videos are a great way
to learn more about this topic

Experience mindfullness with Andy Puddicombe's awesome TED talk.

Watch this 10 minute TED talk

What is mindfulness?

Psychology Today defines mindfulness as "a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience."

Many see Mindfulness as being taken off autopilot and focusing our attention to our present lives. Think of a time you were driving to work, when you suddenly realize you weren't really aware of the past few miles. Or maybe you open a bag of cookies to eat some, and before you know it the bag is empty. The mind can get caught up going over past or future events, worries, anxieties or chores. Mindfulness is turning our attention to the present moment and accepting it for what it is, rather than wanting things to be different.

Mindfulness has its roots in the Buddhist tradition of meditation, but it has been adapted for the Western mainstream with applications in health, school and workplace.

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Why is mindfulness important?

Mindfulness has many health related benefits. Regular mindfulness practice has been found to:
  • reduce stress and depression
  • boost creativity and performance
  • improve health by boosting our immune system's ability to fight off illness
  • improve memory and attention
  • reduce symptoms of PTSD in veterans
  • help to manage pain
  • reduce behavior problems in schools
  • fight obesity by practicing 'mindful eating'

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How do I get started?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, there are two main ways to practice mindfulness.

Formal practice- Formal practice involves training with a mindfulness practitioner. Through the course of a training, they guide you in mindfulness practices and exercises you can apply in your everyday life.

Informal practice- Informal practice of mindfulness means bringing a mindfulness framework into your everyday life. There are many books, CDs or websites that can give you an overview and some mindfulness exercises to try at home. However, you can practice mindfulness when washing the dishes, driving to work or brushing your teeth.

Here is a guide to get you started:
  1. Start by paying attention to your breathing. Notice the sensations as you inhale and exhale. Do not change your breathing, but just bring your mind to this physical action.
  2. Move your awareness to any physical sensations you are experiencing. It could be tension in your body, an itch or pain. Zoom in on the physical sensations your body is experiencing and let them pass.
  3. Acknowledge the thoughts or emotions that you are experiencing in a non-judgmental way and let them go. The point is not to completely clear your mind but to always redirect your full attention and awareness back to the present moment. Remember to be kind and forgiving toward yourself. If your mind starts to race, bring your full attention back to your breathing.

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Mindfulness resources

Check out the resources and blogs below to learn more about mindfulness.

A brief explanation of mindfulness
Mindfulness exercises from Greater Good
Mindfulness and daily activities
Mindfulness classes and training

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