Throughout psychotherapy sessions with my clients’, I often use mindfulness practices. Meditation or present moment awareness activities help shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life. They can create a sense of calm, acceptance of the moment and feelings that arise, and reduce symptoms.
What is Mindfulness?
Why is it important to be present?
Present moment awareness can cultivate self-compassion and increased understanding of yourself, your motivations, actions and interactions with others. Therefore, mindfulness practices allow you to identify, tolerate and reduce intense emotions, thoughts and sensations and can give you space between a stimuli and your reactions in order to choose alternate actions. Victor Frankl explains, “Between the stimulus and the response there is a space, and in this space lies our power and freedom.” Mindfulness can also lead to an increase in self-control, objectivity, equanimity, acceptance and improve concentration, performance and mental clarity. Overall, mindfulness improves physical and emotional health and wellbeing.
Being mindful can:
Enhance your capacity to experience the joys of everyday life by becoming fully engaged in the present moment
Strengthen your resilience and capacity to deal with adverse events
Reduce your ruminations about worries of the future or regrets over the past
Decrease habitual and/or addictive responses
Help you to accept your experiences rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance
Improve your ability to slow racing thoughts that lead you to engage in limiting or self-sabotaging thinking and behaviors
Enhance your ability to feel more integrated and act with integrity
How do I practice becoming mindful?
“I cannot relax or stop my mind from thinking!” Clients often report they cannot stop their racing thoughts when they attempt to meditate or be mindful. They believe they are doing it wrong or cannot possibly even try. Meditation or mindfulness practices are not about emptying your mind of all thoughts. We have a wonderful, thinking mind and meditation is a tool to simply focus your thoughts onto the present moment. While meditating, thoughts will arise repeatedly, and the goal is to let them go without attaching additional stories to them and bring your focus back to the present….again and again and again. Sometimes, your mind will be racing and you may wrestle with your thoughts, while other days, you may feel a sense of peace as you let each thought go. Rest assured, your mind will continue to think for you. However, you will learn to focus your thoughts to improve your mind, body, emotions and performance.
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the intent of any mindfulness technique is to cultivate focused awareness of your present moment experience. You can practice while sitting in a formal meditation or while doing any activity. Mindfulness practices include, but not limited to traditional meditation, martial arts, breathe work, yoga, music, art, dance, movement and mindful eating. You can also practice being mindful while walking, driving, cleaning or any daily activity.
Does This Sound Familiar?
I’m too busy to meditate every day! I can’t sit still for that long! My mind races so much, meditation is more stressful than relaxing! I must be doing it wrong—I can’t quiet my mind! It doesn’t have to take a long time to practice being mindful, and there are many ways to incorporate present moment awareness into your everyday activities. Here are a few tips on how to cultivate being mindful.