Over the past few months I have been working on happiness; that journey lead me to mindfulness this week. What is mindfulness and what does it have to do with happiness? Paying attention to what you are doing in the present moment, actively sharpening our focus on the present moment, will make us happier. During yoga practice we build the habit of mindfulness so that we can call upon this skill at any time that we need presence. The practice of postures is combined with conscious breathing and deep states of concentration and absorption. Yoga is meditation in motion.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, the secular practice of mindfulness, based the stress reduction program pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the U of Massachusetts, entered the American mainstream over 30 years ago. Thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness, inspiring countless programs to adapt it for schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centers, and other institutions. Now it is practiced in places of power – from British and Swedish parliaments to the US Congress, notably congressman Tim Ryan, author of The mindful nation.
Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness practices have been shown to promote coping, increase positive emotions like compassion and life satisfaction and reduce stress, anxiety, pain, depression and negative emotions. It makes us more attentive and less distracted and more in touch with our emotions and more resilient and quicker to recover from stress, more pro-social, optimistic and kind – in a word, happier.
“When you are mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness thru observing our own mind and increase our attention to other’s well-being.” Barry Boyce