So, how’s the deep breathing going?
Welcome to week 2 of Peace Month. This week we will discuss deepening the peace in our lives through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of my favorite therapeutic techniques. So much valuable information exists on mindfulness - today’s post is an introduction to the concept.
Simply put, mindfulness is focus on the present moment, on purpose, and without judgement.
Mindfulness and meditation have been around for centuries, largely as a spiritual practice. About 40 years ago, however, the science and medical community began to take notice of the rich treasures to be found within this practice. In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a long-time meditator and yogi, started a mindfulness-based, stress reduction clinic in Massachusetts University Hospital.
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for Depression was the first modality in which the ancient wisdom was connected to cognitive therapy. Now, medical research has demonstrated that MBCT and MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and other mindfulness practices are effective additions in the treatment of anxiety, depression, stress, burnout, trauma, chronic pain, some forms of cancer, psoriasis, eating disorders, addiction, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
Studies show that 95% of what we are anxious about lives in the past or in the future. Try it out – take a moment and recall the last thing you were anxious about. Was it about something that was happening in the present moment? Or was it “I shouldn’t have said that…,” “Shouldn’t have done that…,” “They thought I was stupid when I said that…” OR “What If I never…” “What if I always…” “What if this happens or that happens…” These sentiments reveal anxiety about things that took place in the past or you are anticipating about the future.
This is what makes mindfulness so powerful in reducing anxiety – so little of what we are anxious about actually lives in the present moment. So, as we begin to be more in touch with the present moment, it significantly reduces anxiety.
Because there are so many forms of mindfulness, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some of my tips for getting started:
Use your senses to bring you into the present moment. Bring your attention to what you can hear, see, smell, and touch in the moment, to bring you more fully aware. Our senses are an easy, powerful resource in becoming more in tune to the present.
Mindfulness can be done while doing daily activities to build practice in being more present-minded and subsequently in reducing anxiety. For instance, while brushing your teeth or washing the dishes, notice how toothpaste smells or how the warm water feels on your hands. Auto-pilot, routine activities are ripe for anxiety to spring up us our mind wanders. Mindfulness allows us to come off auto-pilot into presence.
Mindfulness walks are a wonderful way to introduce this practice into your life. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Any time your mind starts to wonder to your to-do list, anxieties from the day, or anything else, say to yourself “that’s okay, that’s what a mind does” and gently guide your thoughts back to something your sense are experiencing in the present moment – what you smell, see, hear, feel, etc.
There are several online resources available. Type into the YouTube search bar “mindfulness.” Download the “calm” app to your phone.
There will be more to come on this topic, but let’s start here! Share in the comments how you are beginning to integrate mindfulness techniques into your life and how it’s going. The comments section is a great place to set goals for practicing this skill and to share any obstacles you find in being able to achieve your mindfulness goals.
Here’s my mindfulness goal: Take at least 10 minutes daily to sit or walk outside, while being mindful of my natural surroundings.