“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”
Jon Kabat Zinn
Just a few years ago, the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America Findings” report (2010), found that Generation X (those of us born between 1966 and 1979) was the most stressed-out generation yet.
It made sense that this would be the case, as our attention became increasingly fragmented, we plugged ourselves into some kind of device almost 24/7, and we created ridiculously demanding schedules and expectations for ourselves.
Thanks to the neurology of our brains, stress is highly contagious.
It is not surprising that our kids have not been immune to our ranking as the most stressed-out age bracket. Dr. Kristen Race calls this: Generation Stress.
We are a society of stressed-out adults raising a generation of stressed-out kids.
– Dr. Kristen Race
Current studies tragically show that our teens have now usurped the generation x’ers as society’s most stressed-out age group. The pace and stimulation of life today has the brains of many children and adults operating in a constant state of fight or flight. The result is:
- A significant increase in stress and anxiety at younger and younger ages
- Difficulties with attention and concentration
- Problems with our physical health
- Decreased sense of happiness
There is a Better Way…
Here’s the good news: just as stress and anxiety in adults begets increased stress and anxiety in kids, the reverse is also true:
Positive emotions and calming stress-resilient emotional states are also highly contagious.
Reversing the effects of our hectic world is not as monumental of a task as it might seem. Research repeatedly demonstrates that small brain-based mindful habits lead to big stress-resilient results.
Mindfulness is not a concept;
it’s a practice.
– Jon Kabat Zinn
At Mindful Life™, we define mindfulness as paying attention to the present moment with kindness. When we practice mindfulness regularly, the practice stimulates our prefrontal cortex.
- less anxious
- less stressed
And it is easier for us to:
- Think clearly
- Make intelligent decisions
When we live in a baseline state of chronic stress (as many of us do), we cannot easily access the prefrontal cortex or what we refer to as the “smart part” of our brain. We get stuck in a perpetual cycle of fight or flight, we’re reactive rather than responsive and we operate out of our amygdala or what we refer to as the “alarm part“ of our brain.
Research has demonstrated that a mindfulness practice actually increases our neural pathways’ ability to easily access our prefrontal cortex. When we are in what our brain perceives as a distressing situation, our brain can access its executive functions and higher thinking abilities if we have strengthened these neural pathways through simple mindfulness practices.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Formal practices involve intentionally bringing your awareness to the present moment in systematic ways.
Practices include (to name just a few):
- Becoming aware of your breath
- Noticing your thoughts
- Paying attention to sounds
- Focusing on sensations in your body
Informal practices can include:
- Eating mindfully
- Hiking mindfully
- Dedicating time to be fully engaged and present with the people around you