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Resources on Mindfulness and Meditation

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of present experience such as thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Like its name suggests, mindfulness is simply the act of shifting your focus to any personal phenomena happening in the ‘here and now’. Whether observing the motion of your feet with each stride or observing the curl pattern of your hair, there are countless ways in which mindfulness can be practiced. The only aspect needed is a complete focus and acknowledgement of your reality. Merely the act of said awareness instills greater acceptance of your experience.

It is called mindfulness practice because it is an improvable skill that can be developed over time. Like professional musicians, exceptionally skilled mindfulness practitioners eventually adapt practice times as just a part of daily routine. Thus, the more time devoted, the more your improve psychological functioning and decrease emotional distress. Mindfulness and meditation help cultivate the ability to be with the fullness of not only negative experiences but also positive experiences. Research has shown that trying to avoid negative thoughts and feelings can actually intensify these experiences, and suggests that mindfulness works through non-reinforced exposure to previously avoided emotions. Individuals who report higher levels of mindfulness skills report less experiential and emotional avoidance. Further, increased mindfulness is associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. These are just a few of the many benefits that are achievable through mindfulness practice.

Why Mindfulness?

So often it’s the case that we’re physically present, but the focus of our awareness is elsewhere. It may be on the near or distant future, or on the past. For example, you may be lying on a beach on the last day of your vacation, but you’re thinking about being in the office the following day. Rather than enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the ocean, you’re feeling tense and anxious.  Or, you may be out with friends at dinner but you’re focused on a recent break up. Instead of following the conversation and savoring the food, you’re feeling sad. In both of these situations, bringing your awareness back to the present moment would could decrease your distress and enhance your enjoyment.

Sometimes it’s the case that we truly are focused on the present moment, but in a judgmental way.  These judgments can kick up negative emotions and color.  For example, you may be standing in a crowded subway car thinking “this is disgusting,” “I don’t want to be here.” As a result, you feel disgust and struggle to get through the ride.  It would certainly be challenging, but focusing simply on aspects of the experience without judgment, like colors and sounds, could decrease your distress.

The Benefits

Research shows that mindfulness practice has various positive psychological effects. These include increased subjective well-being, reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, improved regulation of emotions and behavior, and increased positive emotions.

How can I start a practice?

Meditation is one way to cultivate the skill of mindfulness, but it is not the only way.  Essentially, any part of your of your daily routine, from drinking coffee to riding the subway, when done with a different quality of awareness—nonjudgmental and undivided, becomes an opportunity for mindfulness practice. There are unlimited, non-time intensive ways to practice. For example, rather than eating your lunch while checking emails and/or voicemails, just eat. Bring your complete focus to your salad, sandwich, or piece of pizza as if you’ve never eaten anything like it before. Notice all the colors, bring your awareness to the sound of chewing, the flavors and the act of swallowing. Slow it down. It’s about the experience of eating rather than finishing the food.

Learn more about our Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy program.

Resources:

 Thought Leaders

The Dalai Lama

Sharon Salzberg

Thich Nhat Hanh

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Apps We Like

Calm

Headspace

JKZ Mindfulness Apps

Mindfulness Daily

Gratefulness

Whil

Meditation Studio App

Literature

Moment by Moment: The Art and Practice of Mindfulness. by J. Braza

Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Life. by J. Kabat-Zin

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation. by T. Nhat Hanh

Places to Practice

JCC Mindfulness

MNDFL