What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of being, which involves slowing-down and non-judgmentally focusing one’s attention on the present. In our hectic lives, we tend to drift through life planning for the future or worrying about events that have already occurred. These two mind states (the future and the past) blind us from the only state we can control, the present. It can be easy to have whole days pass on “autopilot” without really being aware of the sights, sounds, emotions, or stimuli that are right in front of us.
Where does Mindfulness come from?
The roots of Mindfulness reach back over 2,000 years ago as an essential element in Buddhism and other Eastern contemplative traditions. The person credited with bringing Mindfulness practice into western medicine is molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn. In the 1970’s, Kabat-Zinn began applying mindfulness practices with chronic pain patients who had been resistant to nearly all forms of medical treatment. The astounding improvements made by these patients led to hundreds of additional studies and the wide integration of mindfulness practices into treatment for both physical and mental health difficulties.
How does one practice Mindfulness?
There are many ways to initiate mindfulness, but most practices can be divided into formal or informal. Formal practices of mindfulness involve more traditional meditative exercises, which may involve closing the eyes, being seated in a crossed legged position or lying down. These formal practices can include meditations such as mindful breathing, the body scan, loving-kindness mediation, and mindful listening. You may have done one of these formal mindfulness practices at the beginning or end of a yoga class (Savasana).
Informal practices of mindfulness involve shifting your awareness from “thinking” to noticing the present at any time. It may be while you are walking your dog in the morning and you breathe in the fresh-cold-dewy air and listen to the birds sending out their morning calls. It could also be the moment when you take pause during lunch to really savor the smell and taste of your warm matcha latte with almond milk (THE BEST 😊).
What are the benefits of practicing Mindfulness?
The amount of research backing the practice of mindfulness is enormous. Within the field of mental health, practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, fear, and panic while improving concentration, self-compassion, and life-satisfaction. Within the realm of physical health, mindfulness has been shown to reduce measures of stress, pain, blood pressure, while improving sleep and memory. These benefits have even been tracked by using fMRI on the brain showing improvements in areas of cognition and memory and less activation in areas related to stress and anxiety. Additional studies have shown that mindfulness can help fight addiction, increase job satisfaction, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and strengthen relationships.
How do I start my Mindfulness Journey?
Incorporating a regular mindfulness practice into your life will likely be beneficial! However, starting mindfulness on your own may be difficult and many run into similar challenges that are difficult to overcome (example: “My mind drifts-off too much” or “I have trouble sitting still”). During our free consultation, we’ll talk about how integrating mindfulness into your individual therapy or taking a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course may be an excellent fit for you!
Stop, Breathe, Think
Full-Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, by Bob Stahl
The Little Book of Mindfulness, by Patrizia Collard