The first principle of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is contact with the present moment, also known as mindfulness. Building the skill of the mindfulness, being in the here and now, is the first stepping stone of the Acceptance and Commitment therapeutic practice. There are several previous blog posts that cover mindfulness:
“Increasing Peace Through Mindfulness Practice”
“Mindfulness Mondays, 1: A Season for Presence”
Mindfulness is the act of gently (without judgement) guiding the mind back to the present moment, rather than allowing the mind to wander into the past and/or the future, which can be associated with high anxiety. Let’s try something. Think of the last thing you were anxious about. Generally speaking, that thing did not exist in the present but in the past or the future. It sounded like: “Why did I say that?” “They thought I was stupid for saying/doing that.” Or “What if xyz happens?” “What if I always…?” “What if I never…?” These thoughts are associated with the past or the future, but do not live in the present moment – they have come and gone or they have not yet happened.
Here’s one my favorite mindfulness definitions that I have found to date: “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them – without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we are sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
– The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley
The more mindfulness is researched, the more benefits are found. I have already shared how
mindfulness can be helpful in managing and responding to anxiety. It is also helpful in increasing connectedness to self and others, deepening self-awareness, reducing impulsivity, etc. The current moment is the only place in which we have power. Mindfulness allows us to feel this power and to make choices about what comes next (hopefully in pursuit of valued and meaningful living).
So much good begins with this connectedness to the present moment. Try utilizing a mindfulness technique today. There are many to be found if you scroll back through blog posts to the Mindfulness Mondays series. “Insight Timer” App and the “Calm” App are also great resources for guided mindfulness meditation exercises.