Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future not only give rise to stress and anxiety, but literally rob us of the present moment – the only real time we have in which to live, learn, create, heal, and grow.

So how can we awaken to the present moment?  In recent years, the practice of mindfulness has been advanced as an effective way to reconnect with the present and to live fuller, richer, and healthier lives.

What is mindfulness?  With its origins in Buddhist meditation, mindfulness helps us maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and our surroundings.  Mindfulness also involves an attitude of openness and acceptance, where we observe our own thoughts and feelings without judging them.

The practice of mindfulness has been linked to many positive health outcomes. Studies have shown that these practices of awareness and acceptance can bring diverse benefits, including:

  • helping to boost our immune systems
  • reducing stress, anxiety, and depression
  • helping regulate emotions and improve mood
  • improving mental focus, memory, and decision making
  • improving self-esteem and emotional resilience
  • fostering compassion for yourself and others
  • controlling urges and contributing to healthy eating and weight loss

So how can you begin practicing mindfulness?  It can be as simple as taking a few minutes each day to slow down, focus in on your breathing, and tune into your body’s physical sensations.  Notice what is happening only in that moment, and give yourself permission to accept your thoughts and feelings as they are, without judgement.  As you embrace these practices, you will find more opportunities during your regular day to reset your focus and expand your awareness and acceptance.  

There are many excellent guides and resources that can help as you begin a habit of mindfulness.  And just think: fretting over the past and future will no longer preoccupy us when we live our lives fully engaged and where each moment matters.  What better way to help us be happier and healthier in the future?

Have you ever gone for a walk, only to realize afterward that you don’t remember what you saw along the way?  Or are you sometimes so preoccupied while driving that you can’t recall whole sections of the journey?

This state of being “on autopilot” or absent from the present moment has serious implications for our physical and emotional health.