Today, almost half of Americans report their stress levels have increased within the last five years. For students, eight in 10 report high levels of stress in their daily lives. These numbers are astounding and help demonstrate that stress-reducing techniques are necessary for many Americans.
Mindfulness refers to being in the present moment and enjoying it while still being in a state where personal thoughts and feelings are acknowledged. Being in a state of mindfulness can greatly reduce stress — and it’s a relatively easy process to undertake. Doing absolutely nothing is, in most cases, being mindful.
Many mindfulness techniques involve meditation, yoga or other activities with a calming nature. These relaxing exercises allow the mind to be in a state of Zen, limiting stimulation. Yet, since almost half of Americans are stressed, this could imply that most Americans are extremely busy. In fact, America has even been referred to as “the most overworked developed nation in the world.”
Therefore, it might be too difficult or time-consuming for the average American to take time out of their day to stick to a meditation routine. If that’s the case, incorporating mindfulness into activities that are already necessary — like driving to work, for example — is a powerful step in the right direction.
Saving time in the morning and listening to the news on the way to work is a common activity for Americans. In fact, the radio reaches 93% of adults on a weekly basis. While it’s important to understand what’s going on in the world, the news is mainly negative. A recent study from the American Psychological Association reports that over half of Americans say the news makes them feel anxiety or sleep-deprived.
Nevertheless, not listening to the news altogether can lead to an uninformed public who don’t know about issues that can have personal effects on them. As a resolve, it may prove beneficial for Americans to cut down the time they listen to the news in half.
For the other half of the time that they would usually listen to depressing news stories, putting on meditative or relaxing music instead and letting their mind relax may prove extremely beneficial and calming. This could allow for a better head space at any time throughout the day and is a way to practice mindfulness without taking extra time.
Practicing mindfulness by doing nothing may actually prove difficult for some people. This is because many Americans feel guilt about doing nothing. A recent study found that only 47% of 2100 participants take all of the vacation time they’re allotted to. The study talks about “vacation shaming,” that workers often feel from their colleagues from taking off work. In fact, even when Americans do take vacation time, only 18% of them are actually vacationing to the fullest, while the others report taking time away to do work-related activities. The consensus is that Americans are so overworked, a feeling of guilt is born when doing nothing. This is part of the problem that validates the need for a mindful society.
The human brain isn’t designed to work around the clock — non-stop. Taking time to be mindful improves well-being and physical health. It allows for a mental reset and a massive stress-reduction. Americans are so severely overworked, practicing mindfulness should be a requirement.
Josie Haneklau is a sophomore political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at firstname.lastname@example.org.