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Mindfulness: Spring Clean Your Mind

By: Kim Sudol, CERF+ Senior Administrative Manager
All photos by Kim Sudol

It’s safe to say that spring has finally arrived. In Vermont, this means temperatures rise as snow melts, unveiling not only sprouting flowers and budding trees but also revealing all the garbage that was concealed by snow cover. This season is like a wellness metaphor. It’s a reminder of the growth potential and blossoms ahead, but also highlights the necessity of clearing out the trash in order to embrace transformation, with an unspoken sense of urgency.

There are many ways to engage in wellness activities, but one way to really fertilize your practice is to add mindfulness to it. This word mindfulness has been gaining momentum in recent years. I remember hearing the term when mindful learning was introduced as part of the curriculum to my middle school children, likely as a response to challenges brought on by the pandemic. Slowly this word has infiltrated my world as what seemed like a descriptor for many different things: mindful meditation, mindful yoga, mindful eating, mindful walking…the list goes on.

I didn’t think about why being mindful when doing these things was so important until recently while listening to a podcast. As the discussion evolved it became increasingly clear that the act of being mindful was not the descriptor; it was the differentiator.

So, what exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment, free from burdens of the past or concerns about the future. For anyone who is familiar with the teachings of Ram Dass, mindfulness is his message from the 70’s: Be Here Now. Yet, as simple as it sounds, practicing mindfulness can be remarkably challenging.

The benefits of regular mindfulness practice extend far beyond relaxation; they positively impact both the brain and body. From emotional regulation and nervous system balance to enhanced focus, attention, and memory, mindfulness offers a multitude of advantages. Studies have also shown its efficacy in managing chronic pain, hypertension, and insomnia. Even dedicating just 10 minutes a day to mindfulness can yield significant changes in our cognitive abilities and overall well-being.

Good news is that you may be engaging in mindfulness without realizing it. Deep immersion in artistic creation or playful interactions with a pet or child can naturally cultivate mindfulness by anchoring us firmly in the present moment.

If you’re not sure how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, start by listening to your intuition. Or ask yourself what are you already doing on a daily basis that lends itself to this practice? If you walk regularly, try to be intentional about listening to the sounds around you, observing the types of vegetation or architecture on the buildings you see, and attempting to identify the smells in the air. Let go of the mental “to do” list and the earbuds.

Experiment with different techniques until you find what works best for you. And if (or when) your mind starts to wander: give attention to your intention. Some days will be better than others, but that is why it is a practice. With persistence, you’ll gradually cultivate a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you, plus your body and mind will thank you. Mindfulness isn’t just a trend; it’s a vital component of wellness. There is no better time than now.

 

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