Practicing Mindfulness

The New Year is a time of renewed energy and excitement for taking on personal challenges and accomplishing new goals. Some of us have written down detailed lists of resolutions, while others let the year unfold and take on new ventures as they evolve.  Either way, we hope you make the most of each and every day, and try to embrace a little mindfulness in the process.  The concept of mindfulness is prominent in the headlines this time of year, as people look for ways of finding greater happiness, reducing stress, and fully engaging in life.  A time to get off auto-pilot, increase awareness, and return to the moment.

Mindfulness is the intention of being more present in your life.  Having awareness of where you are and what you are doing, and not being as reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.  Jon Kabat Zinn, Founder, Mindful-Based Stress Reduction Program, defines mindfulness as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.  Mindfulness can enable you to change the way you think and feel about experiences.  It increases one’s ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.

In a world of constant motion, hectic schedules and pressure to do and have it all, the idea of mindfulness can be hard to envision, and even harder to practice.  Days filled with information overload and digital distraction, that flood our thoughts, make it challenging to focus on the here and now.  Our minds can easily get caught up with our worries and regrets, and keep us from being present on what really matters.  And though we try to stay in the present moment, it’s often difficult to not multi-task and react to all that is going on around us.

Summer camp is undoubtedly a place that allows us to slow down, focus and be in the moment, making mindfulness easier to experience, but it can also be achieved throughout the year. Mindfulness was once practiced mostly through meditation, a mental exercise to reach a heightened level of spiritual awareness, but has more recently taken on a much broader practice of concentration in daily activities.  People are now experiencing mindfulness through creativity, the great outdoors, seeking out new experiences, and unplugging from all the noise.  It’s being in the moment while taking a walk, trying out a new yoga class, creating a piece of art, or having a meal with family.  At camp, it’s waterskiing on the lake, getting into character for the play, watching the sunset, focusing on getting to the top of the climbing wall, or sitting with a friend during rest hour.

Mindfulness is especially helpful when situations are stressful.  Having the tools to stop, take a breath and shift perspective improves both coping and communication skills.  And the benefits don’t stop there.  Studies show that practicing mindfulness can bring a variety of physical, psychological and social benefits.  Mindfulness reduces anxiety, depression and insomnia, and increases sense of well-being and both mental and physical energy.  It improves emotional and social intelligence, improves relationships and develops empathy and compassion.  Mindfulness can make us more likely to help someone in need, bringing people together.

As you navigate your way through the new year, enjoy all the challenges, opportunities, and friendships that bring you happiness and remember to stay mindful.

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough.  Each moment is all we need, not more” Mother Teresa.