We live in a fast-paced, technologically driven, ever-changing world. But the stress from such a harried pace takes its toll on our minds, bodies and emotions. A very effective strategy for managing the stress is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally bringing our attention into the present moment in a caring, nonjudgmental way. It helps us focus and see things more clearly, instead of fretting over the past or worrying about the future. It gives us the opportunity to turn off automatic pilot and choose how we will face day-to-day challenges.
The concept of mindfulness has gained significant attention in recent years as a way to reduce stress, build positive emotions and bring compassion into our lives. Mindfulness teaches us to take a deep breath, slow down and feel more balanced, in control and in the moment.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness. You can formally set aside a period of time, on a regular basis, to practice breath awareness, sitting meditation, walking meditation and mindful body awareness.
Practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong can enhance mindfulness and bring greater awareness. Also, we can practice mindfulness as we listen to others and give them our full attention.
Even those with very busy schedules can find ways to introduce mini-moments of mindfulness throughout the day. This helps us feel grounded and centered before we continue with our regular routines and activities.
The practice of mindfulness enables us to be more attentive and effective in accomplishing daily tasks. At the same time, the negative effects of stress are reduced, and we are better able to manage our emotions and improve our health.
One of the greatest payoffs from practicing mindfulness is more productive communication with family, friends and colleagues. It makes us more compassionate and resilient in a world that is often at odds with those traits.
If the daily demands of work and home leave you feeling stressed, frazzled and exhausted, consider a mindful approach to life. While it is not always possible to immediately change all of our stressors, mindfulness helps us find ways to better meet these challenges. The result is more balance, control and well-being in our lives.
Jacqueline Huntly, M.D., MPH, is board certified in preventive medicine and a fellow of the Arizona Center for Integrated Medicine. This article is provided in collaboration with Memorial Health University Hospital in Savannah.