By: Lisa A. Conway, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.
Mindfulness is a buzzy topic right now, as research shows that it helps with everything from anxiety, depression and stress to smoking cessation, sleep and beyond. Mindfulness typically refers to intentionally paying attention to the present moment in an open, non-judgmental, curious, flexible and accepting manner (Harris, 2013). It is difficult to know how to become more mindful, particularly when our minds naturally wander.
I once came across a description of a puppy’s mind. If you put a puppy in the middle of the room and ask it to stay put, it might do so for a bit. However, if you do not keep an eye on it, the puppy will wander off. Sometimes it may do something charming, like rolling on its back or playing with a toy. Other times it will get into mischief, like chewing on an electric cord or eating your favorite shoes. Our minds will similarly wander into pleasant, neutral or unpleasant territory. These trips the mind takes are not bad or wrong, but rather opportunities to observe and choose our responses. Training ourselves to catch the mind more quickly when it wanders and observe where it goes is important, and it takes ongoing practice. Luckily, given that the mind naturally wanders, and continues to do so for even the most skilled mindfulness practitioners, there are ample opportunities to practice every day. Future blog posts will discuss some specific practices you can try.
Before we delve further into mindfulness, it is important to note a few things that it is not before practicing it. Christopher Germer (2009) outlined some of the common misconceptions of mindfulness in his book, “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion,” including that mindfulness consists of a completely empty mind and feelings of complete relaxation devoid of any distress. Instead, mindfulness means that you embrace your experience, whether it is a pleasant, unpleasant or neutral one. Because your mind will continue to generate thoughts and emotions and physical sensations will continue to arise, you will not be completely relaxed and free of distress. Instead, you will learn how to be less reactive to those thoughts, emotions and sensations, developing a refined ability to respond to stimuli in more thoughtful and intentional ways. Given that mindfulness is seen as a central factor in healing across a range of stressors and types of distress, practicing this skill will help you adapt and cope when stress and distress arises. The skilled clinicians at EDGE Counseling Solutions can help you to practice adaptive coping skills. If you would appreciate our assistance, please contact us at (224) 676-2317 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The resources listed below are also available for you to begin, or continue, your mindfulness practice.
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