Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday Feature: Mindfulness

Yesterday, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my sister and brother-in-law's house. When my husband, daughter, dad and I arrived, my niece took our coats and I plunked my purse, with my cell phone inside, onto a chair, which was where it stayed for the duration of our visit.

This was a conscious decision. At 57, I am as guilty of cell phone distractibility and overload as my students, who are more than three decades younger than I am. Thanksgiving, I decided, was not a day for cell phones.

That's not to say that I went electronics-free yesterday -- that would be a bold-faced lie. But it is true to say that I was mindful of my electronics usage, and that I chose times that I wanted to be in the moment. During those times, I wanted my cell phone out of sight, which also kept it (mostly) out of mind.

Mindfulness -- our focus on being fully present in the moment -- is a practice that's been getting a lot of favorable press, perhaps because in today's busy, electronically fueled world, it's especially hard to come by. Research has shown that mindfulness has health and wellness benefits even beyond stress reduction. In addition, practicing mindfulness helps us to cultivate it even in settings that can be stressful, such as the workplace.

Though I didn't think of it until I sat down to write this post, Thanksgiving was an especially good time to opt for being in the moment. I was seeing my family (who deserved my full attention) and opting to take a day off from work and its related activities -- that much I knew. But, in addition, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and, for me, the end of the semester, both of which can be stressful. Choosing to start this season with my full focus away from distractions -- things that are much lower on my priority list that the people who matter most -- might, perhaps set the tone for a holiday season where I choose to do more of the same.

Looking for ways to improve your mindfulness? Check out this article from the New York Times on increasing mindfulness at work and, perhaps follow up on some of its suggestions for improving your own ability to be mindful.

Who knows? Maybe that's the key to kicking off a season where we can truly focus on peace, love and joy.

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