Mindfulness. A Path to Health and Happiness.

We are all so busy these days.  Running from one thing to the next, being pulled in multiple directions, and it seems we are rarely more than an arm’s reach away from our phones which connect us constantly to…. everything.  Text messages, emails, news alerts…

I don’t know about you, but it seems I often find myself in a perpetual state of motion, going, going, going.  So much to do, so little time.

One of the things I have been working on is slowing down.  Quieting my mind so I can pay attention.  To my body.  To my thoughts.  To my actions.  To the way I am feeling.  So I can live every moment – not just rush through them.

Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as “mindfulness”.  Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose; in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.

Kabat-Zinn, an MIT educated scientist and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, has been championed as bringing mindfulness – a once obscure Buddhist concept founded over 2600 years ago — to the mainstream.

And being mindful?  There’s good reason to do it.

There is a growing body of science-based evidence that mindfulness is good for our health.  Here are just some of the benefits:

It reduces stress…

It decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. And just like exercise, reduces anxiety, improves mood and improves sleep quality.

Reduces emotional reactivity…

Which means a more adaptive response to stressful or negative situations, with faster recovery.  Mindfulness helps the brain better control over-processing pain and emotions – by controlling the cortical alpha rhythms which impacts what our minds pay attention to.

Increases focus and cognitive flexibility…

has been shown to increase information processing speed and even boosting working memory.

Improves immune function!

Research shows that even a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. Findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways.

Increases empathy and compassion…

This was found in people who had anywhere from just one month (wow!) to 29 years of mindfulness meditation practice

These all sound good to me!  And this is not even to speak of all the emotional benefits of mindfulness that contribute to our happiness.

So as we all strive to live a stronger life, how can we be more mindful?

Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your full attention to what you are doing.  To being not just self-aware, but self OBSERVANT.

Objectively – and non judgmentally – paying attention to your thoughts, perceptions, feelings, body sensations when you are in that moment.  Slowing down and listening.

So here’s your challenge.

Next time you are waiting… in line, at a table at a restaurant, parked in your car waiting for your son or daughter.  Don’t pull out that phone.  Stop.  Pay attention.  What is happening at that moment?  How are you feeling?  What are you noticing?  Soak it in.  LIVE that moment.

And then, do it next time.

Just as we exercise our bodies, this is about exercising our ATTENTION like a muscle, which will strengthen over time and lead to a more mindful, healthy, happy existence.

Koko has made me physically strong. I want to be “mindfully” strong as well.

I’m going to leave a link below to a 60 Minutes interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn that you might find interesting.

Click here to watch the 60 Minutes video

Here’s to finding peace. To listening.  To being present.  To mindfulness.

Be well.

Mary Obana
President & Co-Founder, Koko FitClub

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