It’s a busy, technology-dominated world—and most of us are continually spinning, twisting and turning in an effort to “get things done” and “produce.” We work, we raise families, we have countless responsibilities. The truth is, this is distracted living, and it raises stress levels, lowers productivity and interferes with our ability to focus. When we live this way, we fail to cultivate a sense of contentment and joy.
Erin Nitschke, MS, EdD, NSCA-CPT, NFPT-CPT, ACE health coach, health and human performance college educator and fitness blogger, explains how to become less distracted—and more joyful—by practicing mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness?
The concept of mindfulness gained mainstream popularity and respect when John Kabat-Zinn established the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) program through the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His definition of mindfulness as “present-moment, nonjudgmental awareness of one’s physical and psychological experience” (Brehm 2014, pp. 203–204)” has become familiar to many. In other words, mindfulness is related to a mental state in which the focus is on the present moment and the peaceful acceptance of all facets of an experience or event. When we are mindful, we are aware of our own bodily sensations, emotions, feelings and thoughts.
Benefits of Mindfulness Practices
Practicing mindfulness can help you to
- gain greater insight into personal motivations for change;
- develop an awareness of the physical response to stress;
- decrease the perceived severity of daily stressors;
- enhance the focus on positive thinking and positive daily events;
- deepen a sense of compassion;
- manage stress more effectively and productively;
- expand your world views;
- discover genuine happiness;
- establish and/or strengthen the mind-body connection;
- develop confidence and self-reliance; and
- reduce chronic pain, stress and anxiety.
Sources: Brehm 2014; Center for Mindfulness 2017.
Finding What’s Right For You
Not every person will respond to the same mindfulness tool or technique, so you may want to try some different approaches. One effective technique for quieting a busy mind is to practice a refocusing and centering exercise. For example, look around the room and select objects you can see, hear, touch and smell. This is helpful for making a connection between the environment and the primary senses.
You can also elevate your awareness by encouraging cognitive restructuring, the process of consciously modifying one’s perceptions or thoughts (ACE 2013). Do you perceive exercise as a negative activity? Try writing down your thoughts about specific tasks—like a workout—and then reframe those thoughts in a positive way. Over time, you can retrain the mind to avoid creating counterproductive thoughts.
Here are a few resources you can use to help develop mindfulness:
- Center for Mindfulness, www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-in-medicine/intro-to-mindfulness/.
- Collard, P. The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 Minutes a Day to Less Stress, More Peace (Gaia 2014).
- Mindfulness Meditation: Nine Guided Practices to Awaken Presence and Open Your Heart with Tara Brach (Sounds True 2012).
ACE (American Council on Exericse). 2013. ACE Health Coach Manual. San Diego: ACE.
Brehm, B. 2014. The Psychology of Health and Fitness Applications for Behavior Change. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
Center for Mindfulness. 2017. Introduction to mindfulness. Accessed June 14, 2017: www.umassmed.edu/cfm/mindfulness-in-medicine/intro-to-mindfulness/.
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