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Mindfulness may be in its hey day. Not only are yogis practicing it but also major companies around the world, schools, and even the military.
Most people think mindfulness is meditation, but it's way more than that. It's an approach to living that is weaved into every day activities.
Mindfulness is being aware. It’s noticing and paying attention to thoughts, feelings, behavior, and everything else. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, wherever you are, whoever you are with, and whatever you are doing, by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now.
There is also "mindfulness meditation." In meditation, attention is paid to the natural rhythm of the breath while sitting, or to the rhythm of slow walking. When your mind wanders (and it will) simply catch it wandering and return to paying to attention to the breath. That's it.
Sounds super simple. So why all the hype?
I think there are two reasons why mindfulness has caught so much mainstream attention recently.
We are a stressed, overly-stimulated, constantly-on-the-go, never-rest-our-minds kind of society. At some point, we burn out and we search for reasons why this happened as well as remedies so we can get back to our crazy-pace lives. Enter mindfulness, which is all about slowing down, being in the moment, and accepting whatever is in the moment. It's like a breath of fresh air to frazzled minds.
Another reason mindfulness has swept across the West swiftly is that science has taken an interest; the University of Oxford established an entire Mindfulness Centre dedicated to studying it. Research has shown that the benefits of mindfulness include: stress reduction, improved concentration, boosts to working memory, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, and more.
In a society that's starved for calm, mindfulness sounds pretty good because as of yet, there are no major side effects like most medications for anxiety and stress.
What about the woo woo? Is mindfulness just for people who wear hemp, chant mantras, and only eat kale?
The truth is, there are a lot of non-conventional ways to become more centered and calm. Mindfulness is only one of them. There's prayer, breath work, visualization, exercise, and countless other methods. You have to find what works for you. If mindfulness seems to woo woo for you, then try something else.
Whatever you do, find ways to allow space for your mind. Put down your phone. Turn off Netflix, the news, or Internet chatter. Our minds weren't meant to be on 24/7, which is why so many of us are stressed and burnt out.
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