Mindfulness: What it is and how it helps

mindfulness [dropcap]H[/dropcap]ave you ever had the experience of reading something, knowing your eyes have gone over the page, but when you get to the end, you cannot recall what you read? Or, how about having a conversation with another person, and at some point realizing you are not paying attention?

These are examples of being mindless. In contrast, when we are mindful, we are aware of what is happening within and outside us.

The term “mindfulness” has received a lot of media attention, most recently from CNN’s Anderson Cooper. So, what exactly is mindfulness and why all the hype about it?

Most of us spend countless moments reviewing the past or thinking about the future. We often worry about things that already have happened, haven’t yet happened or may never happen. Although we can’t live in the past or the future, our well-ingrained habits of mind often take us there anyway.

The truth is, we can only live our lives in this moment — the present moment. Mindfulness is a training that helps us spend more moments in the present. Through mindfulness training we learn how to be aware of what is happening in the present moment with a sense of openness and curiosity.

The practice of mindfulness has become increasingly popular because scientists have discovered its many benefits. Researchers from Harvard to Stanford to the University of Miami have shown mindfulness to positively address health issues such as:

• Reducing anxiety and depression;
• Lowering blood pressure;
• Boosting the immune system;
• Easing pain, and
• Increasing attention and focus; aiding those suffering with ADHD.

Because of its many benefits, mindfulness is being used by corporations, educational institutions, sports teams, and in the legal and healthcare systems. Many well-known companies, such as Apple and General Mills, have implemented mindfulness programs to reduce workplace tension and improve communication. In schools, mindfulness helps students and teachers improve concentration, conflict resolution and empathy.

Mindfulness is being used at both ends of the judicial system — by lawyers and judges and in the prison system. And, in the sports world, the Seattle Seahawks use mindfulness to enhance focus as a path to winning.

When we are in the present moment we tend to feel a sense of calm. And, we also are available to experience the many pleasant things that are occurring. Put simply, mindfulness helps us to better manage our lives and reduce stress. Maybe it’s time you learned how to practice mindfulness.

Alice Lash, JD, a lawyer by training, is founder of Mindfultime, which has offered mindfulness trainings in South Florida since 2009.


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