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Background Info and Benefits

Mindfulness and meditation are similar and have some overlapping qualities, but it is helpful to notice their unique differences. According to Deepak Chopra, "mindfulness can be practiced both informally (at any time/place) and formally (during seated meditation). Where meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time, mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day." 

"The ability to notice thoughts and emotions arise and pass away, rather than being merely identified with them, is a kind of superpower...Mindfulness allows you to experience your life in the present, without ruminating about what just happened, what should have happened, what almost happened, what might yet happen, etc. So the connection to happiness is very direct. At bottom, mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to what actually matters. It’s hard to imagine a more powerful productivity tool than that."    


--Sam Harris, Ph.D.


"How You Can Help Others By Practicing Mindfulness"

There is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness plays a strong role in stress reduction, among numerous other positive impacts. Stress and uncertainty are times when our brains latch onto anxious thoughts and start to spiral. Taking the time to become aware of our thoughts can help us begin to learn the difference between whether our thoughts are fact-based and useful to act upon, or simply an unhelpful stress and worry response. Mindfulness allows us to become aware of our thoughts so that we can step away from them for a moment, which reduces our response to stress at the outset. By pausing for a moment and observing our thoughts and our reaction to a difficult situation, we reduce our emotional reactivity by reducing our brain's fight-flight activity and enabling our "wise mind" to be in charge. Mindfulness also allows us the space to think differently about the stressor so that it doesn't overwhelm us.

"My Trouble With Mindfulness"

"Mindfulness and Building Brain Attention Skills"


"(The) non-judging part is the kicker, we have ideas and opinions about virtually everything. Consciousness, colored by our likes and dislikes. All highly conditioned, habitual behaviors really comes down to this:  do I like it or not, do I want more or do I want to less? This is below the surface of awareness and it runs our lives. 


--Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR)

When we are stressed or anxious or fearful, the first step is to pause and help our sympathetic nervous system become more calm. One easy way of doing this is by taking several long, deep breaths. Focusing on the breath serves as a useful way of circling away from our constant worry thoughts and towards a home base that is calmer. Noticing the sensations in our hands or sounds also help us come back to the present moment. Practicing mindfulness in the moment can offer us a way of living that allows us more choice in how to handle challenging situations and become more thoughtful in how we want to respond.

MindUP: Goldie Hawn's non-profit organization MindUP is an excellent resource for teaching mindfulness to kids. It's also a simple, accessible way for grownups to learn about mindfulness too! The curriculum teaches children of all ages the basics of mindfulness and how our brains work in relation to our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Children are introduced to basic concepts of mindfulness and neuroscience; they learn how mindful attention to thoughts and feelings in the moment reduces our brain's fight-or-flight survival stress response in the part of the brain called the amygdala. Reducing amygdala activity allows us to activate our prefrontal cortex which is the part of our brain where we learn, problem-solve, focus, and make good decisions. For children and adults alike, engaging our wiser thinking brain enables us to look around us at what is happening and address any challenging situation from a more peaceful, clear-headed perspective.

MindUP's kids' guide to the functioning of the brain during stress, and how simple breathing can help (helpful for adults too) 

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