We are living in stressful times and finding ways to cope and thrive presents a challenge to us all. An excellent technique to achieve calm and equanimity is mindfulness. Recently, Charles E. Smith Life Communities featured a Facebook live event discussing the benefits of mindfulness since now, more than ever, it is a good idea to practice mindfulness to reduce stress.
What Is Mindfulness?
Developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness is the practice of centering oneself in the present by focusing on the moment through the five senses. A Harvard Health article featured on HelpGuide.org discusses the benefits of mindfulness. According to the article, among the chief values of mindfulness is that “[b]y focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future.” Scientific studies have found that mindfulness techniques are beneficial to physical health. In fact, mindfulness has been found to “help relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.
Scientists have found other health benefits. An AARP article, How Mindfulness Helps You Lose Weight, discusses a series of studies showing that mindfulness helps people to lose weight and keep it off. The American Psychological Association identified the following benefits of mindfulness on mental health: focus, stress reduction, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Another AARP article, Seven Ways to Cope With Anxiety During the Coronavirus Outbreak, specifically recommends “try mindfulness: bringing attention to the experience and kind of allowing it to be there, and not judging it and knowing that it will pass.”
Mindfulness Isn’t Hard
Many people find the idea of mindfulness intimidating. Invoke mindfulness, and it is easy to envision a monk sitting on the top of a mountain, chanting and engaging in a strange and difficult practice. In reality, mindfulness is a simpler proposition. Rather than emptying your mind, mindfulness encourages you to focus on your senses: to consciously bring your attention back to your physical self and away from harmful thoughts. Instead of worrying about the past or the future or other things beyond your control, mindfulness suggests being in the moment. If it seems hard to do, there are some great resources out there to guide you through mindfulness. There are videos on YouTube, websites like Mindful and Calm (which also has a popular smartphone app) and podcasts that provide free, easy to follow guided mindfulness practices.
COVID-19 frightens us all, but in order to stay healthy, we also need to actively seek ways to reduce anxiety. Try using mindfulness as a practice to bring your mind back from anxious thoughts to a healthier place.