Family Focus: Gaining mindfulness takes work
The term mindful has been used quite a bit lately. We see and hear the term mindful in social media, television, and in research.
Mindfulness is a term used in psychology, spiritual health, and family studies. In the text used for the Family Development Credential, offered at Arizona Western College, mindfulness is defined as: “An approach to counteract the inclination to think and act in mindless and unconscious ways,” (Forest, 2003).
This definition was derived from Harvard's professor of psychology, Ellen Langer's, work in mindfulness research. Ellen Langer studies mindfulness in her lab among many other researchers. Langer also developed the Langer Mindfulness Scale which is used for her researcher in this area. Also, Psychology Today (2013) defines mindfulness as: A state of active, open attention on the present.
When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Understanding mindfulness is one thing, but gaining it is another. Gaining mindfulness takes work. Claire Forest, National Director of the Family Development Credential at University of Connecticut (UConn), explains that mindfulness “is not so much a description of what you are doing, as an expression of your true being.”
This means that rather focusing on the hourly and daily tasks, you focus on being in the moment of helping others, communication exchanges, and other concerns involved with that task. Take, for example, a trip to the grocery store. Rather than focusing on the mundane activity of going to the grocery story, you'd focus on providing health to your family, being a savvy consumer, and pleasant communication exchanges.
Why be mindful? Mindfulness can assist you in various facets of your life including professional, social, and familial. Some ways that mindfulness can help you include elucidate a personal, professional, or familial vision, shifting from just doing things to being in the moment, developing a support system, balancing life, and stress reduction (Forest, 2013).
How does one become mindful? Start by listening to others. When listening, put away electronic devices. Give that person your full attention. By doing the above you are being mindful about your listening and showing support to this person. As stated above, you can be mindful by shifting your focus from just doing to being in that moment. You can do this by giving family members your time without other distractions such as cellular phones, television, and/or the Internet.
These days we multi-task in every facet of our lives. In the TED talk, forget multitasking, try monotasking, Paolo Cardini indicates that while making dinner, we also chat on the phone, perhaps watch a YouTube video, and text. Cardini asks us to consider monotasking, or just doing one thing at a time – this is being mindful.
Aryca Marron is the professor of family studies/psychology at Arizona Western College. Contact her at aryca.Marron@azwestern.edu.