Mindfulness in a Hectic World

In schools across the country, students are being taught the practice of mindfulness – how to slow their bodies and become more in-tuned with their thoughts, feelings, and breathing. In a world that seems to be racing along at an incomprehensible pace, mindfulness is coming about from a need for kids to learn how to “disconnect” from their world of technology and move away from the over-stimulation that surrounds them on a daily basis. This is a critical step for schools to be taking, as cases of depression, anxiety, and learning disorders like ADD and ADHD are on an exponential rise in children. Mindfulness is linked with positive emotions and better health, and it can be incorporated into daily life with minimal effort.

It is not just children who benefit from mindfulness, however. Incidents of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and insomnia are also on the rise in adults, making it equally important for adults to become more mindful as well. In this world we live in, with the constant barrage of technological stimulation, instant access to information, and increased pressures at home and at work, adults are increasingly unable to handle all of the pressures that modern adulthood demands. As a result, we are a population of unhealthy, stressed out, and unhappy individuals, and if we are not careful, we will be passing those traits on to our children.

Instead, let us all pause for a moment, and think about the benefits of mindfulness and how we can incorporate it into our lives. Now, some may be thinking, ‘here is yet another thing to add to my to-do list, when I’m already completely overwhelmed and exhausted.’ Not to worry, my friend, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, incorporating mindfulness into your daily life doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. There are a few simple steps that you can take each day to be more mindful, and to model for your children how they can be more mindful as well. 

Elisha Goldstein, of the popular Mindful website, explains how we can take a small moment in our day to simply S.T.O.P. when we are feeling stressed out. Here is what she recommends:

S = Stop: Stop what you’re doing; put things down for a moment
T = Take: Take a few deep breaths; focus directly on your breathing
O = Observe: Observe your experience as it is, taking in to account any thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Notice how your body is feeling and how it is responding to any stimuli.
P = Proceed. Proceed with something that will help you in the moment – have a cup of tea, talk with a friend, go for a walk, etc. 

Getting out into nature can help us to be more mindful: Photo via Pixabay

You can also use this strategy for moments when you’re not feeling stressed, instead use it to focus on yourself and simply calm your thoughts and have a moment of quiet. Taking time to do such things throughout your day, even if it’s just for a moment, can help tremendously in managing our emotions and maintaining a sense of calm. If you have more than a few minutes to spare, then getting out into nature is a wonderful (and easy) way to practice mindfulness as well. The peace and tranquility that one can experience in nature helps us to remove ourselves from the busyness of our lives; it gives us something to focus our attention on (listening to the wind rustling the leaves or the birds chirping, smelling the fresh grass, etc.), and it gives us a quiet place to focus on our breathing, soothing our minds and souls and creating a sense of calm. 

In this fast-paced world we live in, it is crucial that we take steps to protect and care for our mental health as well as our physical health. It is also important that we set the example for our children as well, so that they don’t grow up anxious, depressed, over-stimulated, and stressed. Practicing mindfulness each day is an excellent first step toward preventing that. Mindfulness can help to lower stress levels, improve attention, decrease negative feelings, and even combat chronic pain. Take a few moments every day to incorporate mindfulness activities, either on your own or with your children. Use the S.T.O.P. strategy when you’re feeling stressed, and teach your children how to do the same. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, explains, “Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”