Mindfulness for the Modern Dad: What is it?


Mindfulness has made a rise toward stardom over the last several years.  Buzzword doesn't do the word justice, especially in the self-improvement atmosphere.  From mindfulness eating to mindfulness meditation, everyone seems to be jumping aboard the train.  How does this fit into fatherhood? Does mindfulness have any benefits when it comes to fatherhood? I think these are all legitimate questions in addition to how do I incorporate mindfulness into my already busy lifestyle?

While all of these are legitimate questions, today we'll focus on the topic of mindfulness in fatherhood and defining what it means to be mindful.  Let's take a look.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the art or state of being able to focus on the present.  It is the conscious effort of recognizing, and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations in the present moment. Mindfulness is also the conscious process of eliminating distraction in an otherwise distracting world.  For fathers, this could take on a lot of meanings.  For one, it could be the simple art of eliminating distractions and being consciously present with the family.  In another way, it could be setting aside time either at the beginning or end of the day, and consciously recollecting your thoughts and feelings and finding the opportunity to process them. One action is done in real time, while the other focuses on setting aside time to make this effort happen.  Either way, it is a real opportunity for dads to not only get in tune with themselves, but also the thoughts and feelings of the family as a whole.  It's also an opportunity to connect with the whole family on a much deeper level.

Benefits

Before we dive too far into the benefits, I think we could all agree that taking the time and opportunity to unplug from distraction is a good thing.  Not only does it make you happier, but it also makes those you love and are present with much happier.  Who hasn't been on a date or out to lunch with a friend who never looks up from their phone.  It's frustrating and can cause a lot of tension.  Also, who hasn't sat in front of the TV with a bag of Doritos and ten minutes later, with an empty bag thought, "What the hell did I just do? Did I even taste anything?"  

Mindfulness has a lot of benefits, not only mentally but physically as well.  Here are a list of great things practicing mindfulness can do for you both physically and mentally.
  • Improves mood and decreases depression. Mindfulness allows you to take a step back which helps decrease stress.  This not only improves our mood, but is also likely to decrease chances for depression.  Even a simple breathing exercise, with an emphasis on focusing on the breath can help release stress.
  • Decrease blood pressure and improved circulation.  Stress mechanisms play a major role in increasing blood pressure.  Think about a time when you were driving and someone cut you off. Immediately, your blood pressure and pulse begin to rise and you can feel throbbing in areas such as your hands, neck and temples.  Practicing mindfulness helps decrease the fight or flight response, lowering stress and in return lowers blood pressure. 
  • Increased focus. Practicing mindfulness, especially in the form of meditation, is like practicing for the big game.  It prepares your mind for times when you need to focus.  Mindfulness and meditation isn't something that happens right away. It takes time, failure, and more time.  In the long run you will gain more focus and clarity with the ability to control both of these when it matters most. 
We'll cover more on mindfulness as time goes on.  Next time we'll discuss some great exercises in the art of mindfulness and how everyone can apply this to the world of parenting.

Have you started practicing mindfulness? What's your favorite exercise?

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