Mindfulness is a word that has gained much notoriety in recent years and is continuing to do so — primarily because it has proven to be effective in helping alleviate symptoms of various mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, and helping individuals to manage stress and even chronic pain conditions.
Mindfulness does this and so much more. Practitioners of mindfulness often experience more satisfaction and fulfillment in their day to day lives, in their relationships, and even in their eating habits. So what is Mindfulness?
At its very essence, Mindfulness is basically awareness; the full and complete awareness of and attention to what we are experiencing in the moment. This may sound like a rather simplistic concept, but in the chaos and frenzy of our daily lives we have lost much of our ability to stay focused on the here and now. In the act of doing any one thing, our brains are often occupied by many other things; meetings to prepare for, people to call, deadlines to meet.
How often, for instance, have you been driving in your car with your mind so occupied by other things that you arrive at your destination and have no memory of what you passed along the way? How often have you rushed through a meal, perhaps while also talking on your cell phone and checking emails on your laptop, and missed the experience of tasting what you have eaten?
How much of your daily life do you spend worrying and feeling stressed about what might happen in the future or about things over which you have no control? Do you experience the symptoms of stress in your current life such as sleep problems, irritability, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, chest pain, headaches, difficulty relaxing, and eating or drinking too much?
Mindfulness is a simple practice that can be integrated into therapy as a tool to enable you to learn to focus on the here and now, to slow the constant chatter in your brain, and to create space for you to experience your life and your emotions in a non-judgmental and accepting way.
Mindfulness practices include meditation, which is a very simple practice of sitting still and quietly for even a few minutes each day, focusing on your breathing, and when you catch your mind wandering, gently redirecting it back to your breath. It sounds simplistic; however, it is a very effective tool in not only managing stress, but increasing your ability to enjoy life more fully and with more awareness.