What is Mindfulness?
When people hear the word mindfulness, they usually think of meditation. However, if you don’t like meditation, no worries! Meditation is just one of many ways that we can cultivate mindfulness.
So, what is mindfulness?
- A psychological process that involves consciously paying attention to internal experiences (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, urges, memories) and sensory experiences (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste), as they occur in the present moment
- Involves acceptance: noticing internal and sensory experiences as they are, without trying to change them
- Pure awareness or observation of the here and now, in a way that is open and curious
- Noticing thoughts and feelings, rather than acting on them or being influenced by them
- Mindfulness does not mean to empty the mind of thoughts
What does Mindfulness have to do with Therapy?
Staying in the present moment can be difficult, as our minds tend to wander. We can ruminate about the past and worry about the future. We can do things on autopilot like drive home without noticing how we got there, or scarfing down an entire bowl of popcorn without tasting it because we are engrossed in a movie. Put differently, “I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” – Abraham Maslow
Many problems relate to lack of mindfulness, such as judging ourselves or others harshly, using food or substances to dull emotional pain, over-reacting to things that upset us, disengaging from others, ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future. When we are not aware of the present moment, we can act out old patterns, and react on instinct or habit instead of responding consciously in a values-consistent way to the present moment. When we do not accept our internal experiences, we can devote time and energy into struggling with them or trying to avoid them. But in so doing, we can also avoid many of life’s joys.
Mindfulness can help you to…
- Cope with painful feelings, such as anger or loneliness
- Increase your ability to focus and complete tasks more efficiently
- Connect in a more profound way to others and yourself
- Reduce stress, feel more rested and relaxed
- Find relief from stress-related physical problems such as pain or insomnia
- Relinquish unhealthy habits
- Alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety
Mindfulness is an integral part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and can be integrated into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).