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5 facts about mindfulness

Mindfulness is open and useful to all who want to quiet the mind.

Postal Service employees can participate in an Aug. 12 webinar on mindfulness, along with a series of “Mindful Monday” sessions during the summer. Here are five facts about this ancient practice:

1. Mindfulness is a technique, not a religion. While its roots can be traced to Hinduism and Buddhism, mindfulness is secular in application — open and useful to all who want to quiet the mind.

2. It can be boiled down to three simple steps. At its most basic, mindfulness involves three deceptively simple directions: Be aware of your thoughts, be present in the moment and adopt a perspective of self-acceptance and kindness.

3. It has proven physical and psychological health benefits. In terms of physical health, mindfulness can improve sleep, control pain and decrease blood pressure. Psychologically, it can reduce anxiety, lengthen attention span and has even been found to lower implicit age and race bias.

4. Neuroscientists are fascinated. Several schools have centers studying mindfulness, including the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University, the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

5. It can change brain structure. In 2018, a Harvard researcher found structural changes in the brain after only eight weeks of MBSR, or mindfulness-based stress reduction, a course developed by the founder of UMass’s Center for Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn. She found an increase in volume in the cortical thickness of the hippocampus, associated with learning, memory and emotional regulation, and a decrease in volume in the amygdala, associated with anxiety and the fight-or-flight response.

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