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Mindfulness: A Path to Improved Health

Mindfulness: A Path to Improved Health

“paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, MD

Mindfulness is one of the eight components of Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path, a tradition dating back over 2,500 years. Brought to the attention of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zin, an American physician and Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts by Thich Nhat Hahn in the late 1970s, this ancient practice is useful as a means of managing stress and anxiety, reducing sports, workplace, and household activity injuries, managing chronic health conditions, and promoting improved outcomes in weight control and other health-related activities.

While mindfulness grew out of an ancient tradition of meditation and other spiritual exercises, its practice in contemporary Western societies does not require elaborate types of clothing, physical movements, specific ways of sitting, standing or breathing or belief in any particular religious system or tradition. Practitioners of mindfulness may find some of the ancient physical postures or breathing techniques enhance their experience, but anyone can live in a more mindful way.

Paying Attention:

What am I doing right now, at this moment in time? What happened yesterday, what will happen tomorrow, even what will happen ten minutes from now is not to be the focus of my attention now, except insofar as my activities now lay the foundation for what is coming next. Paying attention to this moment requires bracketing the hurts, fears, angers, upsets, resentments, and other negative emotions from the past — setting them on a shelf somewhere else, so to speak — and simply focusing on what is occurring now. With eyes open to Now, I can see new possibilities and experience more satisfaction from the activity in which I am engaged.

On Purpose:

Acting mindfully requires conscious effort. We get used to doing things on a sort of auto-pilot as we become skilled at the activities of daily life we learn as children. Our auto-pilot activities — get up, wash face, brush teeth, comb hair, eat breakfast, go to work — help us in the sense that we don’t have to decide what we will do at each step of our day. However, when those activities become so automatic that we don’t notice or even remember that we have engaged in them, the opportunity to experience something new in the course of doing them is lost. Even a new toothbrush, if it’s a different style than normally used, can bring a new sensation and experience of awareness to a routine task. Eating breakfast mindfully is a great way to start on a new weight control regimen.

In the Present Moment:

Now is the only time that we actually have. Mindfulness keeps us here. Now is not the time to focus on old hurts, broken dreams, lost opportunities. Neither is it the time to dream focus on what may someday happen. Only what happens right now needs to be addressed and experienced. What I do now will lead to results in the future, but trying to live in the future will not get me there if I don’t do what I need to be doing now. Living in the past will keep the chains of the past holding me down. I’ll never know the joys of this moment and I’ll never fly.


Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Mindfulness is not an apathetic acceptance in the sense of “what will be will be” or a notion that “it’s all good.” Mindfulness allows me to look at the present moment and see the good and the bad elements of it. I can then consciously choose how I will respond and what I will do.

Living mindfully brings enhanced enjoyment of life, of relationships with our families and friends, of work and play, of health, and when ill health or sad times come, an ability to experience those as well, without adding the heavy burden of past pain or future fears.

In the words of Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof, “To life!”


To learn more about Mindfulness, check out these sites:

Mindfulness – Your Present Moment

Mindfulness: present moment awareness

Mindfulness and Kindness

Mindfulness (Psychology)



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