It is Monsignor Kelly High School Parents Awareness Symposium (PAwS). Together with Dr. Belinda George, B.S, M.Ed, Ed.D and Erica Duckworth, M.Ed, LPC-S; the three of us spent time informing and educating our Kelly parents regarding different topics. I, myself was privilege to educate and share my expertise to them about “Fostering Mindfulness".
As we all know, being a parent is a very challenging and a never-ending mission. We all have our own set ways on how we raise our children; however we all have the same goals - health and happiness for all of them. Fortunately, we now have the all knowing google to consult when we need some advice in relating to our children :>). The PAwS night is hoping that we can add an extra layer of information and inspiration to our parents aside from what we usually see and hear on our almighty phone screen. :>)
Are you aware that the latest statistics reports that 76% of middle age adult is reporting mild to moderate form of loneliness. In addition, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and suicide cases are still rampant and in upward trend in American society.
Lets face it. We live in an incredibly busy world. The society expect too much from us and we are constantly doing something. Having mentioned this. majority of adult Americans are negatively affected by those expectations. As a consequence, our mind is constantly working and being bombarded by non-stop thoughts.
Throughout the day, our mind is busy thinking and wandering about all of these expectations and roles we have to play. In addition with work, family, relationship and other responsibilities - we cannot help ourselves NOT to use our mind constantly. We rarely have a chance to put our mind to rest. Try to imagine the last time you really stopped for a moment in your life and try not to do anything? What I meant by stating "not doing anything" means that our mind is free for the present moment – No phones, No Facebook, No IG, No TV, No Netflix streaming, not even thinking what could you have done yesterday or not even what will you do few hours from now? It is a time where you are undisturbed. It sounded like "doing nothing for your mind" is a very ordinary thing that we usually do, however, if you really think about it; majority of people does not spend 10 minutes in a day to take care of their mind.
Taking care of our mind is extremely important for us. This is the one thing that is responsible for how we consciously experience things. Our mind is responsible why we experience to love, to be happy, to be confident, and to be content. The very similar mind that gives us a chance to experience emotional stability, to be kind and thoughtful and considerate in our relationships with others. We depend on our mind to be spontaneous, focused, creative, and to perform at our very best in everything that we do. And YET - we DO NOT take any time-out to look after it. In fact, we spend more time looking after our cars, cleaning our houses, or taking care of our hair and nails versus taking care of our mind.
The result of this kind of busy mind routine schedule and lifestyle is that we get so stressed and anxious. Our mind constantly works like a machine going round and round, with lots of difficult and confusing emotions. Majority of us does not really know how to deal with this constant mind busyness and constant noises in our brain. When this happens, we get so distracted that we are NO longer living for the present moment. We miss out on the things that are most important to us. In addition, majority of us just assumes that this is the way that life should be. Through the years, we just learned how to go on with it and live it; however, it need to stop. We all need to realize that it is really not how it has to be.
So, as a person who grew up in Asia, I have heard and witnessed people practicing mindfulness. Year 1995 was my very first attempt to practice mindfulness. Coming to America at 21 years old, after graduating PT school, and being thousand miles away from my family can really make you feel anxious, scared and stressed. Life in America was so fast and busy and it flipped my life upside down. I was inundated with thoughts, inundated with difficult emotions that I did not know how to cope. With every time I sort of pushed negative thoughts down, another one would just sort of popped back up again, it was a really very stressful time. I have witness my contemporaries deals stress and anxiety in different ways. Some of them worked long hours to be distracted, others turned to their friends looking for support, and some opted to take alcohol or medications; I opted for mindfulness instead. I turned to mindfulness techniques to get me through the day. I assumed at that time that it was just an aspirin for the mind when you are stressed and anxious. Unbeknownst to me that it could be sort of preventative in nature. At that time, there are only few scientific evidence of why it is working. In comparison today, there are thousands of scientific researches that has been done showing its benefits to our physical health and wellbeing.
Neuroscientist looked at the brains of people that practice mindfulness; they found out that the area of the brain that is related to attention, learning, and compassion grows bigger and stronger. They call this, cortical thickening. This is when neuronal growth happens in response to repeated mindfulness practice. The more we practice mindfulness, the better we become. This is the same thing when we go to the gym to exercise our muscles; we build it up. Data showed that regular mindfulness practice strengthens our immune functioning, it decreases stress, decreases cortisol, and helps us sleep better.
For me, practicing a regular mindfulness training gave me a greater understanding and appreciation of the “NOW” ; living for the present moment. By that I mean not being lost in thought, not being distracted, not being overwhelmed by difficult emotions BUT instead learning how to be in the here and now. “Living for the present moment” sounds so ordinary and yet we spend so little time in the present moment. The fact of the matter is that we have wandering minds. Research from Harvard shows the mind wanders on average 47% of the time. That is almost half of our lives are spent not in the present moment. This sort of constant mind wandering is also a direct cause of unhappiness. That means that majority of us spend almost half of our lives lost in thought and unhappy. The good news is that there is something we can do about it. Mindfulness is a positive practical achievable scientifically proven technique which allows our mind to be more healthy and less distracted. Study shows that it only take about 10 minutes a day to have a positive effect in our entire life. So, part of mindfulness is simply learning to train the mind on "how to be here, where we already are". What happens when we are initially learning to be mindful is that we get distracted easily. You may feel a little bit agitated in your body when you sit down to “do nothing” and your mind feels like sort of dull and boring; that is how it usually starts. Most people assume that mindfulness is all about sort of stopping thoughts, getting rid of their emotions, and controlling their minds. In fact, it is the contrary. With mindfulness practice, we are looking for a balance of focus relaxation where we can allow thoughts to come-and-go without any judgement. Regular mindfulness practice invites all of us to step back and to get a different perspective of what is happening; to help us assure that things are not always as they appear. Always remember that we cannot change every little thing that happens to us in life but we can change the way that we experience it.
Evidence shows that we can change the world, we can reduce implicit bias that gets under our skin, we can increase school achievement, we can reduce healthcare costs by cultivating wellbeing, we can cultivate a strong sense of purpose, we can reduce distraction and we can increase productivity and our creativity. All of us need to take 10 minutes of our time in a day to take a moment for ourselves, step back, familiarize ourselves with the present moment and mindfully experience a greater sense of focus, calm, and clarity in our lives.