Mindfulness is the latest lifestyle “it” word. Everyone is talking about it but few people really know what it is. I hear misconceptions from clients and patients all the time.
Unfortunately, if you don’t know what mindfulness is or how to use it, you won’t be able to unlock the many proven benefits. Here’s a helpful take on mindfulness and how you can use it to your full advantage.
What is Mindfulness?
If depression is reliving past trauma, and anxiety is worry about future trauma, then what happens when you land in the middle?
This is what I like to call being “Mindful in the Middle.”
Mindfulness means being fully engaged in the present moment. It’s experiencing emotions, sensations, and thoughts as they arise RIGHT NOW, without action or judgment.
By being aware of the here and now — the middle — you increase mental clarity, enrich your experience and, ultimately, resolve difficult feelings.
Mindfulness is not another tool to help you escape your inner life or cover up emotions, but with enough practice, it will help you reduce your emotional reactivity.
When you’re in a mindful state, you are a witness to your experience — kind of like looking at yourself through a window. You feel sensations, experience feelings and hear thoughts but you’re not controlled by them.
Mindfulness fine-tunes your ability to experience emotions without judgment and it gives you the mental space to weigh your options in soothing them.
Mindful vs. Not Mindful
The concept of mindfulness can be confusing and somewhat theoretical unless you’ve experienced it. Here’s a look at mindfulness in everyday situations:
- Not Mindful: Arriving somewhere with no recollection of how you’ve gotten from point A to point B.
- Mindful: Driving with full awareness and intention of changing lanes, using your blinker, accelerating, braking, feeling your seat, etc. You see and feel yourself doing every action.
- Not Mindful: Chopping, measuring, stirring while getting lost in thought about other things.
- Mindful: Smelling aromas, feeling the weight of the knife, hearing the sizzle of the pan, tasting flavors, etc. You’re using all of your senses to envelop you in the experience of cooking.
- Not Mindful: “There’s a tightness in my chest. Oh well. I’m sure it’s nothing. Moving on. I have an email to send.”
- Mindful: “There’s a tightness in my chest. I wonder what that’s about. Oh! It started when we had that argument this morning.”
As you can see, nearly every moment of every day provides an opportunity to be mindful, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes practice to remember to be mindful since we’re so used to operating on autopilot. There are techniques, however, that can help you improve your mindfulness practice.
And the good news? The more you practice, the greater the rewards.
We’ll explore more ways to increase your mindfulness in coming journal entries. Until then…
To your emotional health,