It’s everywhere! I see it popping up in articles and blog posts, videos and conversations. Mindfulness is making its mark. But what is it anyway? What does it really mean to be mindful?
I’ve been doing my mindfulness homework- and so far my favorite definition comes from Ellen Langer, a professor at Harvard, who has dedicated her life’s work to the science behind mindfulness. She describes it as “the act of actively noticing”- meaning that you’re noticing new things on purpose, in any given moment. It’s the idea of being aware and awake to what’s happening in front of you- Langer talks about mindfulness happening naturally when you travel to a new place and your whole being is in a hyper aware state because you’re in discovery mode, everything is new and fresh and you’re taking it all in.
So how do you become more mindful or stay mindful? There are a whole lot of tools out there to help you become more mindful. It’s about noticing the “new”. So one way to be mindful is to constantly look for something new. For instance if you’re feeling like you’re in a rut at work, see if you can go to work tomorrow and notice something completely new about someone you work with, your work space etc… and see what happens.
Meditation is another tool that can cultivate mindfulness. There’s some powerful science behind meditation and how just sitting with your thoughts over time can increase the grey matter in your brain. That always gets me, how much power we have to positively change our bodies.
Here’s some of the most compelling science and my favorite resources on the subject:
Even one minute of focused breathing serves as a “reset” button for your brain and body. This allows you to clear your head, change your mood and benefit from increased focus and decreased stress. When done over time, simple, intentional, focused, breathing, also known as meditation, not only boosts concentration and reduces anxiety, but it increases creativity, compassion and memory power. Meditation done over extended periods of time builds more grey matter in our brains, which helps us feel more stable when difficult times and tough situations arise. You’ll get positive effects from whatever amount of time you spend on it- the key is to do it everyday. As a daily practice, work your way up to 10-20 minutes.
1. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the “go to” guy for mindfulness and meditation in the U.S. He is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He is the author of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, and co-author, with his wife, Myla, of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting.
2. Ellen Langer
Widely considered to be one of the greatest innovators in positive psychology and “grandmothers” of the movement, her work around mindfulness is some of the most exciting in the field. She asserts that anyone can be mindful anytime, anywhere, no yoga or seated meditation required. Check her out here.
3. Want the best mindfulness app ever? Check out- Andy Puddicombe, Founder of Headspace:
Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk, co-founded Headspace, a project to make meditation more accessible to more people in their everyday lives. Puddicombe also writes for the Huffington Post and the Guardian, on the benefits of mindful thinking for healthy living. He has a great TED Talk, but the Headspace app is seriously amazing and might change your life.
4. A great book:
In his book 10% Happier, News Anchor Dan Harris tells his story of finding focus, clarity and happiness through mindfulness and meditation. A super user friendly and connecting read.
AND… if you’re in Cleveland and want to come experience some mindfulness, put January 29th at 7:30 on your calendar and show up at Root Café in Lakewood for a pop-up experience. Watch our FB page for updates!
* This blog post brought to you by Thrive Co-Founder: Jen Margolis