Newswise — It seems like we are hearing more and more about mindfulness-based meditation and the role it plays in stress reduction. But what exactly is mindfulness-based meditation and why is the practice getting so much attention?

The practice of mindfulness dates back thousands of years and has roots in both yoga and meditation. “The overarching goals of mindfulness are for the individual to learn to be present in the moment and to be able to quiet his or her mind. This can make a significant impact on an individual’s stress level and overall wellbeing,” explains Jodie Katz, M.D., Director, Center for Integrative Medicine, The Valley Hospital.

It also enables us to let go of judging ourselves and our experiences. The process of knowing the experience as it is and ourselves as we are, without relentless judgment, is a large component of the attitudinal foundation of mindfulness. We are encouraged to have a warm, open curiosity about life. In addition, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, “Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self.”

Another wonderful aspect of mindfulness is that it is flexible and can be personalized to fit into an individual’s lifestyle. You can actually benefit from short meditations and, believe it or not, you can meditate just about anywhere!

Greater Good in Action, which was formed through a collaboration between UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and HopeLab, has the following tips for beginning your mindfulness practice:

  • Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
  • Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
  • Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
  • Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.

Mindfulness-based meditation can make a genuine impact on an individual’s ability to manage his or her stress. Adds Dr. Katz, “And, in today’s fast paced and competitive environment, being able to mitigate the impact of life’s stressors on our physical and emotional health is more important than ever!”

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