Several scientific studies indicate that mindfulness can help people with a wide range of difficulties including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, chronic pain, emotion regulation, self-esteem, bipolar disorder, disordered eating, addiction, concentration and focus, assertiveness and communication.
Aside from helping with the previously listed issues, some other the benefits of a regular mindfulness practice include increased feelings of peace and well-being, less stress, improved relationships, increased creativity, emotion regulation and distress tolerance, and an increased in an ability to “let it go.”
Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” More simply, this means being aware of your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, or other focus of attention without judgment.
Aspects to Mindfulness:
Be Here Now: Many people spend a majority of their time ruminating about the past and worrying about the future. Obviously, it can be helpful to plan ahead and learn from your previous mistakes but often these thoughts can turn into unhelpful worries about future events that may never happen, or remorsefully regretting and resenting something in the past. As a result we end up missing out on what is going on here, in this present moment. Try to remain open to what is happening now, in the present moment.
Purpose and Intention: With mindfulness we are paying attention to specific things on purpose. Whether it is your thoughts, feelings, breathing, food, or the sensation of the ground on your feet. Of course we always have a variety of different thoughts, feelings, and stimuli simultaneously. We begin mindfulness by setting the intention to focus and be aware of something specific, acknowledge when other things come into your consciousness and gently bring your awareness back to your original intention.
Acceptance: Accept the present moment and your experience exactly as it is. This does not mean that you have to agree with everything or allow yourself to be walked on like a doormat. Acceptance means to truly accept reality as it is and not fight it or struggle with it.
Non-Judgement: Part of accepting your experience is to not judge it. Throughout our lives we are constantly judging and evaluating things. In a mindfulness practice we want to experience things exactly as they are, without our judgment and evaluations interfering with the present moment.
Openness: An attitude of being open to the present experience regardless of any thoughts about how the experience “should be” or how it has been in previous or similar experiences. Approach the present as a new and unique experience.
Curiosity: Approach each moment with curiosity, as if it was your first time experiencing it. Try to cultivate “beginner’s mind,” with curiosity and appreciation for even the slightest nuance.
Compassion: As we accept and experience the present free from our judgments we do so with compassion. We have compassion for all things, including ourselves, our thoughts and judgments, our feelings, and others. Many people can find it difficult to be fully present when beginning a mindfulness practice. They may find themselves getting lost in thought, or otherwise distracted from the intention of the practice. It is important to have compassion for ourselves when we notice this. There is no way to “do it wrong” with mindfulness. When we find our thoughts drifting we compassionately bring our attention back to the focus of the exercise.
While not a specific form of therapy, mindfulness and mindfulness techniques can be a helpful tool in the therapeutic process. In fact, many popular and effective treatments heavily utilize mindfulness including DBT, and Acceptance Commitment Therapy. Most of our clients can benefit form incorporating various aspects of mindfulness or a mindfulness practice into their lives.