The Merits of Mindfulness

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In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much, and forget about the joy of just being.” —Eckhart Tolle

We live in a fast-paced, busy and plugged-in world. That makes it challenging to live a balanced lifestyle. Life moves so quickly that at times it appears to pass us by before we can truly enjoy it and make the most of it. For many of us, our jobs are demanding with too many commitments and not enough hours in the day. Doing more with less is the prevailing mantra.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Slowing down to enjoy life and finding a better balance between career, family, health and friends would do many of us some good. 

Lately, even though the idea has been around for more than 2,000 years, a lot has been written about mindfulness and its connection to finding balance. Mindfulness — the act of paying attention on purpose and nonjudgmentally — basically means being fully present with whatever it is you’re doing or experiencing in the moment. Mindfulness is contrary to being “mindless” or on “automatic pilot” and far removed from multitasking because it means being focused on just one thing in the moment.

Not multitasking, and focussing on just one thing...? Oh my, is that possible? I guess it wouldn't be any different than adopting other healthy lifestyle habits. So what does mindfulness look like in our day-to-day life, and is it even possible? For many, it probably doesn’t seem that way when trying to prepare a houseful of kids as well as yourself for the day ahead and get everyone out of the door on time. But maybe, it's possible at least some of the time.

I have to admit, I don’t spend a whole lot of time on “practising mindfulness.” However, my wildlife and nature photography practice has given me many opportunities to be in the moment and completely in touch with my surroundings. And when that happens, it does bring a sense of balance, so necessary for my overall well-being.

Slowing down is a choice, and not always an easy one, but it could lead to a greater appreciation of life and more happiness. Scientific research has shown that mindfulness has positive effects on mental health and well-being. It improves attention, reduces stress, helps us gain better control of our emotions and even improves our capacity for compassion and empathy.

This research, of course, gives great support for mindfulness programs in schools since the practice can have a very positive impact on students' mental well-being. Of course, it would make sense for individuals who work in the education system to work on their own mindfulness, too.

Maybe this will be the year…