What Is Mindfulness?
So often, we move through our days in a hurry, focused on all the urgent tasks and responsibilities to fulfill. Our minds are either stuck in the past or worried about the future. As a result, we live on autopilot, disconnected from the present moment, stressed out, and exhausted.
The practice of mindfulness brings our attention back to the here and now. It invites us to slow down, take a step back, check in with ourselves, reconnect with our bodies, and become aware of our surroundings. It can be a formal practice like meditation or informal, i.e., standing in line, walking down the street, or eating a meal.
Mindfulness means simply observing different aspects of the present moment without expectations. It’s about getting grounded by noticing our surroundings with all their smells, sounds, or colors. It is also the practice of turning our attention inwards and taking note of our bodily sensations, thoughts, or emotions without judging them. Due to their many benefits, mindfulness-based interventions are included in different types of therapy, such as MBCT, CFT, DBT, or ACT.
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness?
Implementing mindfulness in your daily routine can significantly improve the quality of your life.
First, it can help you become more easily aware of your thoughts and emotions. In turn, you’re able to notice what triggers your unhelpful thoughts and how they influence your feelings or behaviors.
Second, such awareness allows you to take a step back and see your issues from a new perspective. Rather than reacting to different situations, you can respond to them. While reacting is more impulsive or automatic, responding involves our conscious decision on how to behave.
Let’s say you missed a deadline at work. You might become tense in your body, feel stressed, sad, or disappointed with yourself, thinking: “I am always such a failure”. Mindfulness helps you notice that state of mind, and rather than engage in negative self-talk, choose to let go of judgment and treat yourself more gently.
In the long term, mindfulness can help you deepen your relationship with yourself, notice unhealthy thought patterns and cope with your emotions more effectively. Mindfulness has also been proven to help with mental health issues such as:
Mindfulness and Mental Health: Tips for Beginners
1. Use your breath
Start by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and breathing deeply. With each inhale and exhales, feel your belly rising and falling, and notice your nostrils flaring and muscles relaxing. Whenever you get distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Use it as an anchor to ground yourself in the present moment.
2. Show up
Whether it’s speaking in a foreign language, playing an instrument, or becoming a chef, all these skills need repetition. The more we train, the more experienced, proficient, and fluent we become. The same goes for mindfulness. Rather than scrolling on your phone, or checking emails, utilize small moments throughout your day to:
- Notice other drivers and passersby while stuck in traffic,
- Savor the taste of your morning coffee,
- Smell the earth after rain during your walk.
3. Be gentle
It’s normal to feel restless or distracted during practice; there’s nothing wrong with that. Rather than putting yourself down, allow yourself to make mistakes and approach this experience with acceptance, compassion, and kindness. Before starting each practice, set an intention to be gentle and patient with yourself. Afterward, thank yourself for making an effort to invest in your mental health. It does make all the difference.
Get Professional Help
Incorporating mindfulness in your life can help you cope with any difficult emotional states, painful thoughts, or unhelpful behaviors. While learning this skill on your own can be overwhelming or intimidating, doing so with the help of a trained professional in the safety of psychotherapy can be an enriching experience for you.
Take charge of your life and contact us today to see if our psychotherapists fit your unique situation and needs.