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Mindfulness is more than just a trend

By Colleen Gavin, senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross.

The ‘Expert Voices’ submissions are for educational purposes only. They are written by marketing staff at Capital Blue Cross and Wellspan Health, in coordination with the experts listed. They are not connected to news coverage by WITF or Transforming Health. Information in these posts is not meant to replace professional medical advice or treatment plans. Capital Blue Cross and Wellspan Health encourage you to contact a qualified health care professional to discuss your individual health concerns.

Mindfulness is more than just some Zen trend, and less complex a concept than many believe.

So I’d like to remove any perceived mystery about mindfulness, and join the push by powerhouse companies such as Google, Apple, and General Mills to make the practice more mainstream.

If you’re being mindful, you’re simply using all five of your senses to take in your present moment. It’s about right now. This moment. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. Not next week or next month or next year.

Colleen Gavin, a senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross.

It’s about focusing on the here and now.

We all juggle seemingly unending to-do lists in our everyday work and home lives, along with constant texts, IMs, emails, phone calls, and meetings. It can overwhelm us to the point of near-paralysis.

In helping us to focus on the task directly in front of us, being mindful can help quiet all those distractions and increase our productivity.

Some Bigwigs Believe

 That’s why Apple, Google, and General Mills, as some examples, have made mindfulness training and practices part of their workplaces. They realize it can help decrease distractions, increase production, and give their companies a competitive edge. Given that 75% of people in the United States say they’re stressed at work, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), this corporate infusion of mindfulness makes all sorts of sense.

Early research supports these companies’ approach. Participants in one six-week program exhibited more job satisfaction and focus at work – and less work-life conflict, according to one study published by the APA.

That’s logical, because being mindful means you’re paying more attention to the things you’re doing right now. You’re enjoying it more because you’re doing it with intention. You’re out of autopilot mode.

Supportive Statistics

While there’s not yet an abundance of data detailing mindfulness’ effect, the pace of research is picking up. And the initial results are positive, suggesting mindfulness reduces stress, promotes empathy and compassion, improves focus, and even promotes better relationships.

Again, this makes sense. When you’re more attentive not only to the words you use, but how you use them, it’s likely to lead to stronger connections with loved ones, friends, and coworkers.

Here’s a short list of starting points toward being more mindful:

  • Lessen distractions. Consciously choose to answer email only at certain times, or to do only one task at a time. Turn off your automatic notifications.
  • Instill more calmness with regular breathing exercises.
  • Use the STOP technique – Stop and pause, Take a deep breath, Observe what is happening, and Proceed with an intentional choice to incorporate what you just learned.
  • Meditate, even with simple, starter meditations.

Again, mindfulness isn’t just some trendy term. Its benefits go beyond a few calm moments or some temporary stress management – though those are real and important advantages.

Because it makes you more aware of things you’ve previously not noticed, mindfulness – when practiced with constancy and consciousness – can truly enhance your world.

Colleen Gavin is a senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross.