What is Mindfulness
In the last 5-6 years, the word "mindfulness" seems to be everywhere you turn. On the covers of magazines. The topic of podcasts. In schools (yay!). Within the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies. On the fields and courts of major league sports teams. Implemented by the military and first responders. But what is mindfulness and how is it that it crosses borders globally and benefits people of all age groups, races, genders, and varying careers?
There are many definitions of mindfulness, all with subtle differences. The words that resonate with me come together in this way: Mindfulness is bringing your attention to the present moment experience with openness and a curiosity to be with what is, and doing so with kindness and compassion.
There are now hundreds upon hundreds of scientific studies from some of the most renowned universities and medical institutions in the world that support the benefits of mindfulness.
With daily practice, we can experience the benefits of:
being more aware of internal thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the external world (how our words and actions affect others)
improving our attention — to be present, to be a better listener, to be cognizant of details, and improve our working memory
awakening our communication skills — respond versus react, better connections create more collaborative, creative environments
reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
being better able to manage impulsivity — to be aware and pause before we take action
improving emotional intelligence — fostering resilience
opening the flood gates to our creativity
The science behind mindfulness
As we practice something, be it a physical activity or a thought pattern, the neurons associated with that activity become more connected, resulting in a stronger brain that actually changes, grows, and adapts! This refers to neuroplasticity —"the physiological changes in the brain that happen as a result of our interactions with our environment.” — Dr. Celeste Campbell, PsyD. We can rewire our brains to adapt to new circumstances —think of it as hardware and software updates! It can restore old, lost connections and functions that have not been used in some time, enhance memory, and even enhance overall cognitive skills. This happens on a daily basis, but it’s also something that we can encourage and stimulate.
Using mindfulness as a tool for the brain, we can grow new neural connections, strengthen existing ones, and eliminate connections to habits and behavioral patterns that no longer serve us.