Mindfulness is all the Rage! But What is it Anyway?

Image by Henck van Bilsen

Mindfulness is all the Rage! But What is it Anyway?

With “The Mindful Revolution” headlining the cover of Time magazine last week, mindfulness has truly hit the big time. The popularity of mindfulness training can be seen emerging in many fields. More than 1,000 Google employees have taken the company’s “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness class, which maintains a long waiting list.

Basketball greats Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan practice mindfulness. Well into its third year, the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law is an innovative program, which explores integrating mindful awareness into legal education and law practice. And closer to home, Aspen Elementary School has introduced the MindUP program school-wide. MindUp aims to help children focus, reduce stress, and develop pro-social behaviors.

As more and more people embrace mindfulness, it becomes necessary to ask: So what is mindfulness? Mindfulness, put simply, is learning to pay attention in the present moment with kindness and curiosity to whatever is happening inside and around us. Have you ever observed a toddler at play? Have you noticed how she can completely lose herself in the moment? Blowing on a dandelion flower. Pouring water from a cup into the bathtub. Scooping sand into a bucket.

This single-minded focus is what we (re)learn when practicing mindfulness. We learn to slow down and notice the breath. We begin to tune into thoughts and sensations. We observe our inner landscapes and our surroundings. We learn to let go of what we can’t control and see stressors and challenges in a new light. We find a new sense of gratitude and enjoyment of life. Sounds simple, but it is far from easy in the fast-paced environment of today.

On a practical level, mindfulness training raises people’s awareness of everyday life, as well as their ability to respond rather than react in habitual ways. According to Psychology Today, in the past 15 years, mindfulness research has increased twenty fold. Results are demonstrating its effectiveness in many areas including physical and mental health, pain management, attention and focus, as well as general well-being. Practicing mindfulness helps people manage stress, reduce anxiety and depression, improve decision making skills, build basic resiliency, and develop coping skills – all important tools we can take into the future as we navigate and make choices in an increasingly frantic world.

There are resources in Los Alamos for learning more about mindfulness. Classes are being offered free to participants as part of the Los Alamos Community Awareness Project, one of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board’s newest initiatives. The primary goal of the Community Awareness Project is to increase the health and well-being of youth and adults by introducing mindfulness practice as a valuable life skill and a practical health promotion tool.

The benefits of practicing mindfulness can be best described by former class participants. A Los Alamos teen boy defines mindfulness as “the ability to deal with stress without creating any more stress. An inner peace which allows you to bypass negative emotions – not block them out, but not let them get to you.” A teen girl explains, “Mindfulness allows me to cope with all of the awful things that happen in daily life. However, it has also given me a way to notice and appreciate the beautiful things.”

An AP student remarks, “I learned ways to de-stress and I don’t get as anxious before big tests like I used to.” A parent notes, “After participating in mindfulness classes, my daughter no longer falls into the trap of beating herself up over small setbacks. We have seen a significant decrease in meltdowns at home.”An adult participant shared that mindfulness helps us turn toward problems rather than run away from them and that it encourages us to stop rushing and really notice what is happening around us. A common answer we hear is, “But I’m too stressed and way too busy to take a mindfulness class!” Our response: “You are the perfect candidate!”

Classes for adults are 7-8 p.m. beginning Tuesday, Feb. 25 through April 22 (no class during Spring Break) at UNM-LA, Room 610, Bldg. 6. Classes for teens are 7-8 p.m. beginning Wednesday, Feb. 26 through April 23 (no class during Spring Break) location to be determined. More information can be found at www.losalamosjjab.com. It is recommended to sign up early as space in both classes is limited.

Mindfulness classes are led by Kristine Coblentz, who has extensive experience working with children, youth, and families. She is trained in the Mindful Motherhood, Still Quiet Place, MindUP, and .b Mindfulness curricula – all evidence-based programs. To register for a class email Kristine at lulaazul.llc@gmail.com or call 505.661.4097.

About JJAB

The Los Alamos Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) is an established non-profit organization. The board’s mission is to help youth and families feel and be connected, valued, and recognized through community, family and individual activities.  JJAB’s vision is that all youth and adults are positively engaged in society. JJAB is recognized both within Los Alamos County and throughout the state of New Mexico as a leader in prevention and intervention initiatives for youth. The work of the JJAB is made possible through funding from the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, Los Alamos County, and grants and donations from private foundations and individuals.