Have you ever heard of mindfulness? Does it sound intriguing, but also a bit esoteric? Mindfulness meditation is simply a technique used to help find some peace of mind. Contrary to popular belief, meditation does not necessarily mean stillness. Mindfulness can be easily practiced anytime, and it comes with unexpected benefits!

 

What exactly is mindfulness?

If mindfulness is a form of meditation, it could also be described as art. It is the art of living in the moment. Although this is a trendy phrase, it is a philosophy of life that has been perpetuated for millennia. It entails being fully present, here, and now. Easier said than done? While life can sometimes be disorienting, it is important not to let it lead you in its turmoil.

Where does mindfulness meditation come from? It appeared along with Buddhism 2,500 years ago. Some contemporary figures have, however, democratized this practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of them. He happens to be the most well-known Buddhist monk in the West, after the Dalaï-Lama. In addition to having studied Buddhism and having become a monk, his background led him to study sciences and comparative religion at the University of Princeton. He founded the largest Buddhist center in the world, the Plum Village, and has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. Although he sadly passed away in January of 2022, this fascinating man has left behind countless publications, of which many have mindfulness as a topic. His work has largely contributed to the introduction of this practice to the western world.

Moreover, John Kabat Zinn, an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) professor, has developed a technique combining the original traditions of meditation and western sciences. His method, the MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), is recognized worldwide.

Closer to home is Dr. Sophie Maffolini, a family medicine doctor in Quebec, who has taken mindfulness meditation as a battle horse in treating her patients.

 

How to practice mindfulness

Even if mindfulness originally comes from Buddhism, you don’t have to be a monk, nor a Buddhist, to practice it. Only the desire to be calmer and more at peace with yourself is required. It can be practiced at any time of the day. You can be mindful while laying down, sitting, standing, walking, or doing your daily activities. Some people like to choose specific moments to practice it, while others can remain permanently in a state of mindfulness. Some rather prefer to be alone, while others like the energy that comes with practicing mindfulness as a group.

As human beings, we often live in the past or future. While it can be helpful to reflect on the past to learn from our mistakes, or to consider the future to plan our schedule, it most often is useless and can become tiring. Therefore, it is crucial to recentre yourself, to restore your inner calm. This is when mindfulness comes into play. Tangibly, what should you do?

Naturally, mindfulness means being mindful. But, mindful of what? Essentially, it entails being mindful of what is going on inside of us, and around us. We can be so absorbed by our thoughts that we forget our surroundings. We can be out in a lovely location and not even be aware of the landscape, of birds chirping, or of the soft blows of the wind on our skin. While this is not an easy feat, it is beneficial to reconnect with reality from time to time.

As for being mindful of what is going on inside, we constantly live within our little world filled with our thoughts and emotions. While they can provide some guidance, we should learn to tame them. How? Mindfulness naturally reminds us to acknowledge their presence. We acknowledge them as we would a tumultuous child that seeks our attention; they should eventually get tired and calm down.

If you are looking to practice mindfulness on your own or as a group, the Université de Montréal shares exercise videos online.

 

What are the benefits of mindfulness for seniors?

Mindfulness comes with numerous benefits, in many circumstances. It helps us be calmer and more peaceful. It allows us to be more focused on what we are doing. By being focused on the present, we can fully enjoy our activities or time spent with loved ones.

We can also make use of mindfulness in difficult times in our life. To dwell on the same thoughts over and over is not very healthy. By recentering and calming yourself down, you can put the situation in perspective. From then on, it is way easier to accept it and find adequate solutions to the problem at hand. Therefore, mindfulness has many positive consequences on our well-being, happiness, physical and mental health, and even our interactions with others. It is unequivocally an efficient tool in fighting against anxiety and depression.

It alleviates the physical and psychological symptoms of people dealing with chronic illnesses. Mindfulness also plays a prevention role since it helps reduce or even eliminate stress, a well-known cause of numerous health problems. In fact, the MBSR method is increasingly used in hospitals.

 

The only thing you need to do is to choose a moment or a way to practice mindfulness that suits you. Whether at home or on your solitary walk, the important part is that you make time for it. You can also share these moments with other people if that floats your boat. Why not start your own mindfulness meditation group?

 

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Sources (mostly in French):

https://www.ulaval.ca/mon-equilibre-ul/mes-habitudes-de-vie/meditation-pleine-conscience

https://www.esantementale.ca/Canada/La-b-c-de-la-pleine-conscience/index.php?m=article&ID=55385

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Nh%E1%BA%A5t_H%E1%BA%A1nh

https://www.association-mindfulness.org/tout-savoir-sur-mbsr.php

https://plumvillage.org/fr/

https://www.mindful.org/everyday-mindfulness-with-jon-kabat-zinn/

https://sophiemaffolini.com/

https://medecine.umontreal.ca/communaute/les-etudiants/bureau-des-affaires-etudiantes-vie-facultaire-et-equilibre-de-vie/essence/

https://med.uottawa.ca/fr/nouvelles/bienfaits-meditation-etudiants-medecine-tous

https://www.essorsante.fr/la-pleine-conscience-au-service-du-soin

https://medical.mit.edu/community/stress-reduction

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