Have you ever driven home and when you were parking the car, you realized you couldn't remember anything about the drive home? Have you ever read a book and after a few pages, you can't remember what you just read? Maybe you were thinking of a conversation you just had, or an upcoming trip – your mind was so involved in something else that you weren't really in the moment, experiencing what you were actually doing. Distraction is becoming more commonplace in the busy world today, especially when you figure in all the technology we also have at our fingertips. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to be in the present moment and it can be harmful to our wellbeing.
There is a growing trend of practicing "mindfulness". According to researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness or being mindful is "the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment." Why is this important? Because being more mindful can help people increase focus and attention, combat multi-tasking, and have more appreciation for life.
In fact, there have been many studies conducted on the effects of practicing mindfulness, and the results have shown reduction in stress and anxiety levels, reduction in symptoms of depression and chronic pain, improvement of working memory, well-being and immune response, lowered blood pressure and cortisol levels, and enhanced coping with distress and disability.
There are several ways to practice mindfulness. Since being mindful is the act of focusing on and experiencing the present, this can be applied to just about anything you do in life, including eating, walking, breathing, and hearing. Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program which teaches meditation techniques to refocus attention. This 8-week program has been so successful that there are MBSR certified instructors offering these classes in almost every state and 30 countries. There are also numerous books and websites that people access for guidance with mindfulness techniques. U of I Extension Family Life Educators like myself, are available to provide an introductory lesson called "Being Mindful in a Busy World." To request this lesson, check out our website at www.extension.illinois.edu, click on the Staff heading and find the list of educators under Family Life team.Remember, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to help quiet busy minds and more effectively deal with stress by giving your full attention to what you're doing. As Mother Teresa said, "Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more."