In therapy, we talk about a theory called Mindfulness with our clients who are experiencing a variety of mental health symptoms: depression, anxiety, and even chemical dependency to name just a few. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of the present moment. Sometimes it makes sense to think about living in the past as “depression” and living in the future as “anxiety”, so the best way to avoid those is to become well practiced at living in the “here and now”.
Acting “mindfully” might look something like this:
It’s 7:15 am and my alarm goes off. As I am waking up, I call attention to what my body is experiencing. I feel the sheets around my body, I feel the tiredness of my muscles as they warm up, my feet on the carpet, my muscle in my legs moving me to the bathroom. I bring my awareness to gripping the toothbrush and pressing it to my teeth and gums. It feels cool, tingly, and refreshing.
Mindfulness is about becoming aware of all things you have taken for granted. It is about bringing your focus and attention to only the present moment. Practicing Mindfulness means you are exercising your power of control. Being mindful is the opposite of habitual. We have practiced our current lifestyle all our lives. We have practiced it so much that we don’t even have to think about the choices we are making, but when we are trying to change that lifestyle, old habits have to be destroyed. One way of changing habits is to be mindful. The following is a short exercise on mindfulness. Read the passage and then practice.
Call attention to your present moment. Where are you? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell or taste? Pay attention to your body. Pay attention to your breathing. How do you feel? Take a moment to be mindful of everything your body is experiencing. Notice any areas of tightness or tension? Allow yourself to experience them fully. Breathe into that space and focus on letting go.
You have just completed your crash course in Mindfulness. Congratulations!
Now that you know what Mindfulness is, when can you use it? Here’s a list:
– When you’re feeling anxious, short of breath, like a panic attack coming on–>focus on taking “slow and low” breaths
– When you feel depressed or ruminating over a conversation or situation from the past–> pay attention to only what your experiencing in this moment
– When eating junk food or overeating becomes compulsive–>check in with your body and ask, “Am I really hungry?”
-When feeling quick to anger or exploding–> check in with your body and ask, “where is this coming from?” or “what am I really angry about?”
Those are just a few examples of how mindfulness can be used as an intervention, but don’t forget to use it in times of happiness or joy as well! It make those moments so much sweeter.
How has Mindfulness impacted your life? What techniques have you used to incorporate more Mindfulness techniques into your own life?
Thanks for reading!