You may have heard a great deal about mindfulness lately and wondered just what it is.  Mindfulness, simply put, is the practice of being present.  It is a way of attending to moment you are in and the experience you are having with focus and generally a calm state.  There was recently an interesting article in the New York Times about doctors using mindfulness to reduce stress, improve effectiveness, and prevent burn out.  Mindfulness is not a complex concept but it does take practice.

Mindfulness is not a new concept; in fact we all have been present focused, or mindful, at some point in our lives.  Whether it is reading to a young child, becoming engrossed in an art project, or a surgeon getting lost in the details of an operation.  The trick is to learn how to become mindful in our everyday life.  To experience the various moments that happen with family members, friends, and even co-workers with a keen attention to the moment at hand rather than thinking about what else is going on.   As the holiday season approaches it is easy to become so engrossed in our to-do lists and upcoming obligations that we miss the joy of the present moment.

So often our stress levels rise not because of what is happening right now but because of something that happened 2 days ago that we are still focused on or because of  the 10 things that we “must” do before going to bed tonight.  I encourage you to take 10 minutes each day and just focus on what you are doing in the moment.  It doesn’t matter if you focus on the mundane task of waiting in the grocery line or you are mindful of the experience of managing a car-load of children on the way to school.  As Dr. Krasner of the Unviersity of Rochester said in the NY Times article, “If we can be mindful . . . we can derive a greater sense of meaning from even the most demanding situation.”  And I believe that stress is greatly reduced when we begin to find meaning in the challenges that we face each day.