What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening in the present moment. It means actually showing up for your life as it is unfolding, instead of moving along on "automatic pilot." It is the direct opposite of taking your life for granted.
Have you ever noticed yourself worrying about things in the future that haven't happened yet? Or regretting something you said or did an hour, month, or year ago? In these moments, we're not present for what is happening right now; we are off in our heads some place else, often mistaking our thoughts for reality. And although it is sometimes necessary to reflect on the past or plan for the future, we can create a lot of unnecessary anguish for ourselves if we let regret and worry dominate our lives.
Just as a doctor uses a stethoscope to hear more clearly the rhythm of our hearts, we can use mindfulness to understand more clearly what is happening in our minds. Through this heightened awareness, we learn how our thought patterns, perspectives, and attitudes shape the quality of our lives. And we see that much of our stress, anxiety, and depression is created in our minds, even in the worst of circumstances.
For the last 30+ years, mindfulness has been researched by leading scientists around the world. It is highly respected and utilized in health care, schools, and businesses.
Studies have demonstrated:
-Reduced anxiety, panic, and depression
-Improved well-being and mood
-Improved quality of sleep
-Improved attention and concentration
-Lowered blood pressure levels
-Increased joy, gratitude, and compassion
-Improved immune function
Science of Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is the phenomenon that the structure of the brain can change in response to certain experiences. Neuroscientists have found that people who practice mindfulness can actually rewire their brains to respond differently to stressful situations and experience greater happiness. Studies show growth in brain regions responsible for attention, memory, learning, and joy; and reductions in regions responsible for stress, worry and depression.
Stress Reactivity-Fight or Flight
When we perceive a situation as life-threatening, our bodies undergo a physiological reaction called "fight-or-flight." Our hearts accelerate, pupils dilate, muscles become tense, and immune & digestive systems are suppressed. This is a valuable response to danger, but can also be triggered, and sustained, when we worry about the future or ruminate about the past. Mindfulness allows us to see this reaction happening and avoid it if the situation is not appraised as life-threatening.