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Mindfulness by Donna Reed, USGS

Mindfulness is the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment.  It is an effective tool for changing your level of stress in the right now. 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) states, “Studies suggest that focusing on the present can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.” NIH goes on to further say that “Mindfulness-based treatments have been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. There’s also evidence that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and improve sleep. It may even help people cope with pain.”

Sunset Hood Canal
The sun setting behind the Olympic Mountains from a beach on Hood Canal, Washington.  A beautiful ending of another day.

“What is nice about Mindfulness practice, is it can be done any time and just about anywhere. You do not need any special tools or skills to do it.  It is available to everyone.” Donna Reed, USGS

During the COVID pandemic life was proving difficult and stressful for many employees, not only at work (learning to work in a virtual environment), however, but at home (kids now virtual learning while the parent is also working virtually). Chronic stress can cause both physical and mental harm. The good news is there are tools that can help you deal with stress.

Having been part of a Virtual Resilience Café through the Department of the Interior which practiced mindfulness, I wanted to share the practice of mindfulness with the staff of the USGS Energy and Mineral Resources Mission Area (EMMA).

In May 2021, I made a proposal to my Associate Director, Sarah Ryker, that, although I am not an expert, I’d like to share with the EMMA staff what I have learned over the last 35+ years in the arena of mindfulness. Sarah was very supportive of this idea and agreed. We started with weekly 30-minute trial run from July – September 2021. In September 2021, I provided an update to Sarah and requested that I make this a regular weekly standing session. Sarah was in complete agreement. Many of the staff gave the sessions a try once or twice. Most opted not to return. However, several have chosen to stay with it, and as schedule permits, they return frequently. 

A dense field of wildflowers with coastal hills and the ocean in the background
Spring wildflowers captured on California's Channel Islands. The USGS Western Ecological Research Center's Dr. Kathryn McEachern studies plant ecology and restoration on the Channel Islands. Learn more here.

The feedback I have received from staff (scientists, administration, managers) is that this work has helped them to deal with difficult situations more effectively by being more aware of what is going on. Often by being more in the moment, your attention to information and details is more in tune, you often see things from a different perspective allowing you to approach a situation differently and with a more open awareness and, often, obtain a more positive outcome. By practicing mindfulness, a colleague was learned how to better cope with pain. Practicing mindfulness allows creativity to be enhanced, allows individuals the opportunity to solve a problem they are stuck on. The tools the staff learned allow them to practice mindfulness on their own and utilize the skills independent of the training.