Monday, July 15, 2013


Paying attention to present will pay dividends in future

Mindfulness is a relatively new term for a relatively ancient concept: Being present and grounded in the moment.  It is an attentive awareness of the reality of things, especially of the present moment.  It simply means paying attention to what you are seeing and doing. 
For example, I was not being mindful when I picked up and applied my glue stick instead of my deodorant stick.  That was a wake-up call for me: I decided to research the concept of mindfulness.

My friend Amy Dunion, RN, Coordinator of the Backus Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI), suggested I start by exploring the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.  He is internationally known as a meditation teacher, author, researcher, and clinician in the fields of mind/body medicine, integrative medicine, lifestyle change, and self-healing. He is an expert in stress reduction, relaxation, and the applications of mindfulness meditation in everyday living to improve the ability to face stress, pain, and illness across the lifespan.

On his website, he offers some very basic advice to cultivating mindfulness. It says “In order to live life fully, you have to be present for it.  To be present, it helps to purposefully bring awareness to your moments — otherwise you may miss many of them. You do that by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and being non-judgmental. This requires a great deal of kindness toward yourself, which you deserve.”

Mindfulness is a great tool for stress management and overall wellness because it can be used at virtually any time and can quickly bring lasting results.

There are several simple and convenient exercises to experience mindfulness in our daily life.

•  Just breathe.  Simply stop what you are doing and sit quietly in a comfortable position.  Then take three slow deep breaths, paying attention to the feel and sound of your breathing. Especially when you’re upset, this exercise can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment.

•  Listen to music.  You can play soothing new-age music, classical music, or another type of slow-tempo music to feel calming effects. Focus on the feelings that the music brings up within you, and other sensations that are happening "right now" as you listen.

•  Savor the present.  Why does living in the moment make people happier? Because most negative thoughts concern the past or the future. As Mark Twain said, "I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."

Well, this all may seem like an impossible task in these busy times.  It may take a lot of practice, but being focused, grounded and calm should be a great outcome to practicing mindfulness.  And like Dr. Kabat-Zinn says, “we deserve it.”

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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