Nearly 50 million adults in the United States face the reality of Americans managing a mental illness every day. During the month of May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) joins a national movement to raise awareness about mental health. May is officially National Mental Health Month, and highlights mental health issues and provides a time for our nation to acknowledge mental illness. This is also a time to address new ideas, educate the public, and support treatment and life outcomes for everyone who lives with mental illness.
In support of Mental Health Month, the family life educators of University of Illinois Extension are planning to observe a “Mindful May.” We recognize that being mindful and practicing mindfulness can have numerous beneficial effects on the mind and body. Research has shown that being mindful can: assist with focus and attention; reduce stress levels, blood pressure and symptoms of anxiety and depression; enhance coping with distress and disability; and, improve immune response, working memory, emotional regulation and well-being.
What is mindfulness? Have you ever driven home and when you were parking the car, you realized you couldn’t remember anything about the drive home? Or 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 and your mind was so involved in something else that you weren’t really in the moment, experiencing what you were actually doing. You were not being in the present moment or being mindful of your actions. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to be in the present moment and it can be harmful to our wellbeing.
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. 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, and breathing.
People can access numerous books, websites, videos, classes, and apps for guidance with mindfulness techniques. For Mindful May, the Family Files blog will feature several articles on mindfulness and related topics throughout the month. There will also be videos and short tips on mindfulness found on the Around the Table Facebook page
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.”