“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
So often and without even realizing it, we may find ourselves either worrying about the future or rehashing the past. We are anywhere but in the present moment! This impacts our emotional health, our physical health and our relationships. A mindfulness practice provides an anchor to the here and now, allowing us to live our lives with a greater sense of purpose, clarity and intention.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR), defines mindfulness as, “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
A mindfulness practice involves the cultivation of non-judgmental awareness and acceptance. In other words, when we practice mindfulness, we accept that there is not a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in any given moment and there isn’t a particular end-goal. Rather, the idea is to allow thoughts, feelings and sensations to come and go, without judgement or the need to “do” anything with them. By exploring our experience and expanding awareness of our inner world in this way, we gain a better understanding of how our thoughts, feelings and sensations influence each other, and our mood, which, in turn, impacts how we respond and relate to the world.
Mindfulness also supports us in “leaning into” situations, experiences and/or emotions that may feel difficult or challenging, with a sense of openness, curiosity and compassion.
Evidence has shown that practicing mindfulness has a variety of benefits for both adults and children. These benefits include:
- improvement in the ability to cope with stress, anxiety and manage challenging emotions
- improved brain function, specifically in the areas associated with learning, memory, emotional regulation and empathy
- increased ability to focus, improved memory and attention skills
- fostering of compassion for self and others
- strengthening of the immune system’s ability to fight off illness