Distraction or Mindfulness: It’s up to you.

While sitting in the airport lounge the other day I took a mental tally of the number of people in virtual conversations (via laptop, mobile phone, text, etc.) versus those engaged in actual conversation.  To my surprise the ratio was nearly 6:1 in favor of the virtual communicators!

The technological advances of our era have multiplied our ability to communicate with people both near and far. When I was younger I remember how excited I would be if a friend or a relative sent an aerogram from Europe that was received two weeks later. Nowadays people are quick to complain if they can’t reach you within five seconds of thinking about calling or email you. My how times have changed!

Despite all of these marvelous inventions that have the potential to improve our awareness of the world around us, it seems to me that mindfulness as a skill is becoming less commonly practiced as time marches along. Mindfulness is described as “the process of learning to become more aware of our circumstances” and recent studies have shown that developing the capacity for mindfulness is directly related to wellbeing.

A recent study of 155 fourteen and fifteen year old boys performed by the University of Cambridge demonstrated that mindfulness training not only improved mental health and wellbeing, they also discovered that the more the subjects practiced, the greater the effects!

The Cambridge experiment took students in six classes through mindfulness training that helped the students to pay more attention to their experience in the present moment, without making judgments about it. Professor Felicia Huppert of the Well-being Institute at the University of Cambridge noted: “Another significant aspect of this study is that adolescents who suffered from higher levels of anxiety were the ones who benefitted most from the training.”

Much of what Western psychologists use in mindfulness training was inherited from Buddhist practices developed centuries ago. Buddhists see mindfulness as a critical factor in the path to liberation and enlightenment.

The study of mindfulness is fascinating. According to a paper entitled “Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition” by Bishop et al, psychological “mindfulness” has two parts. “The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.”

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. I found an excellent introductory article on how to increase your mindfulness written by Elizabeth Scott, M.S. entitled “Mindfulness Exercises – Everyday Mindfulness Exercises for Stress Relief.” I would highly encourage you to try one or two of the suggestions in the article.

If you are not careful, the technological tools now at hand will result in you being more distracted and less mindful than if you didn’t have access to them. The tools are neutral, it’s what you do with them that makes them beneficial or detrimental. It’s your call.

6 thoughts on “Distraction or Mindfulness: It’s up to you.

  1. Estelle

    It is always a good reminder that the tools and the circumstances are neutral and that it is each one of us who has the power to use them to the advantage of adding a blessing on earth.


  2. Isabelle Kearney

    I really enjoyed this topic and am looking forward to doing those exercises. They sound so simple and practical. I liked the option to create your own, too!


  3. cinson01

    Excellent points (I paraphrased them) for being actively present in the now:
    1. self-regulate attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment
    2. adopt a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance


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