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Women Living Well - Spring 2005
Student Papers
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Mindfulness and a Healthy Life

Heather Simpson

Mindfulness and a Healthy Life
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that you can do anywhere, anytime. It involves paying attention to the way your body feels, (like the feeling of your breath entering and leaving your lungs), to the sensations you perceive from the external environment, and to your own thoughts and emotions. You maintain an objective awareness of these things, which allows you to evaluate the present situation effectively. When you are being mindful, you are noticing your thoughts without touching them, meaning you don't allow yourself to become entangled in them.

This meditative practice promotes well-being in many ways. Keeping you in the moment makes sure that you don't miss anything, and it helps you to appreciate the small pleasures in life, like the feeling of walking on a soft carpet, or the sound of a bird singing. Usually people are too wrapped up in their own thoughts to notice these things.

Mindfulness helps you to get things done faster, because you are not letting yourself be distracted by worries and sidetracking thoughts. If it is a physical task especially, mindfulness makes you more effective since you are aware of what you are doing.

Also, mindfulness helps you to be aware of your body's needs, like noticing when you are tired, or when you are thirsty, or noticing how certain foods make your body feel. Responding to your body's messages helps keep your body healthy. Mindfulness also decreases stress level, since you are noticing your thoughts and not letting them get to you, and noticing more of the outside world. You are less stuck in your head, which makes you less anxious about things.

Mindfulness also helps you to objectively evaluate situations, which will not leave room for pessimistic assumptions that could cause additional stress. This is why mindfulness is particularly helpful for people with a tendency towards depression or extreme anxiety. It stops these people's automatic negative appraisals of situations, or at least gets them to notice them so they can objectively evaluate them and realize that they are being irrational. And everyone's evaluations of situations are clearer and easier to do since they are not clouded with emotional enmeshment.

So in other words, mindfulness helps you to have a healthier body and a healthier mind, which are the ingredients of well-being. And if you practice mindfulness throughout your lifetime, you will be able to look back on your life knowing that you were really there with all your faculties for every moment of it, not caught up in worries about things that really don't matter in the long run anyway. Mindfulness is a necessary part of a truly healthy and fruitful life.

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