Chris Zellers, MPP -Assistant Professor/Educator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Family & Community Health Sciences Department
The term mindfulness is used in many ways today to describe an awareness for stress reduction and better well-being. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. According to Patel, Jewell and Rhodes who wrote the Mindfulness Activity Guide for Adults, mindfulness has many definitions and can have a different interpretation and effect on everyone. The practice of mindful meditation can improve both emotional and physical health and support overall wellbeing. Taking time out each day to be quiet in this fast-paced world can provide relief of physical pain, mental and emotional discomforts and provide a sense of clarity in day-to-day activities through awareness in the present moment.
Physical benefits of mindful meditation include boosting the immune system, better management of chronic pain and chronic disease. Starting a mindful meditation practice can reduce stress and alleviate some of the chronic challenges we face as Americans, like stress eating, emotional eating, substance use disorder and other addictions. Mindful practices foster an overall healthier lifestyle as awareness of your body and mind take the forefront, which can also improve sleep. Mindful meditation does this by allowing the mind quiet time to better associate the differences in processing stressful situations. Mental and emotional wellbeing supported by mindful meditation include stress, anxiety and depression symptom reduction and improved focus. It helps us to adapt to varying circumstances because it expands cognitive flexibility, reduces the likelihood of emotional reactivity, nurtures the ability for self-compassion and self-acceptance and improves the sense of work life balance.
Finding time and ways to quiet the mind is not easy. The practice of mindful meditation allows for what is natural which is- thinking. Our minds are constantly thinking, take a minute to sit quietly and realize how many thoughts come to the forefront of your mind. The human brain is designed to think and thinking occurs naturally. Rather than struggling to clear thoughts from the brain while mindfully meditating recognize the thought and then let it go. If that thought comes back while trying to meditate, acknowledge it again and try not to expand on it but rather let it go. Doing this will teach the mind to let troubling thoughts move away. While practicing mindful meditation focus on something simple, like breathing or the feeling of your skin.
Gently allow thoughts to be cleared out by focusing or anchoring thoughts on breathing. Mindful meditation can be done just about anywhere, sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. Find a posture or spot to hone the skill of mindfulness each day that is comfortable and will allow for quiet. Learning the skill of peacefulness is like training for a marathon, it takes practice. Consider setting some time aside each day to start and make it a priority, time is hard to find but creating less stress in life is worth the investment. Making time free from electronics and the hectic lives of today will allow for clearer and more stress-free living. For free guided mindful meditations check out: https://cih.ucsd.edu/mindfulness/guided-audio-video.