What is Mindfulness?
Many people are familiar with the word "mindfulness". It has become a popular trend over the last few years. Although you may be familiar with the word, do you know what it means and how to use it to work for you?
Mindfulness means being focused and aware of the present moment in a calm and accepting manner. Mindfulness is a skill that is honed through time and practice like any other exercise. The goal of mindfulness is to become capable of focusing on the present moment while non-judgmentally acknowledging and accepting one's emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
You may be wondering why it is so important to be aware of the present moment. You may even be thinking that this is something that you do all the time. After all aren't we always in the present moment? Quite often we are not fully living in the present moment and are thinking about past mistakes or future worries. Thinking about the past and future leads to anxiety, sadness, or anger because we can't change the past and we can't predict the future.
Therefore if we are constantly focused on these areas we will always feel discomfort.
If we can learn to focus on the present moment and ask ourselves "What is going so wrong in this very moment that I can't manage?" we may end up feeling a whole lot better. In the present moment even if something distressful is happening we can usually cope and typically the situation is not as stressful or difficult as we imagined. Below are some ways in which you can practice mindfulness.
A great way to practice mindfulness is using guided meditations. An example of a guided meditation is by Deepak Chopra. Guided meditations involve listening to someone else describe a peaceful scene and helping you also imagine that scene. This helps to relax your brain while also training it to focus on positive thoughts. Having a safe space or peaceful scene ready in mind can assist when you are stuck in a stressful situation.
Passive Muscle Relaxation is also a helpful meditation style. Here you will learn to become aware of your body sensations and focus on relaxing each muscle group within the body. This can help occupy the mind while teaching you the power you have to manage stress through your body. You can try a passive muscle relaxation technique here.
You can also use the 5,4,3,2,1 technique to center your awareness to the present moment and to distract from anxiety provoking worries or negative thoughts. This entails quickly naming 5 things you can currently see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, two things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This technique utilizes all 5 senses to bring your awareness back to the present moment and to disrupt negative thought patterns.
Body Scan/Guiding Light Technique
A body scan is a mindfulness practice where you sit in a quiet area and attempt to become focused on your body and the sensations occurring within it. You can begin by focusing on your body. Imagine that you are scanning your body from head to toe and noticing any place within your body that you feel discomfort or tension. Try to imagine what this tension within your body looks like. Notice the size, shape, texture, color and temperature of the sensation, as if it were an object. Once you have identified the object or sensation which is causing discomfort you can focus on the healing. You will need to imagine a color that you associate with healing such as blue or yellow. Now imagine that the healing light is scanning your body from head to toe and is slowly breaking up that object or mass that is causing the tension within your body. Repeat as many times as necessary to remove the tension.
Try to begin by taking 2-3 minutes each day to practice one or all of these methods.