This week, the topic of mindfulness made the cover of Time Magazine! As a long time advocate for mindfulness meditation, I couldn’t have been happier. In a stressed out world full of multitasking, burnt out, overworked individuals its good news that mindfulness is hitting the main stream.
For those who are just learning about mindfulness, it is the practice of being in the moment. It is developing awareness of your self, you body, and your environment. This awareness allows you to notice changes, emotions and feelings without the need to react to them. Although its roots are grounded in Buddhist teachings, it is more frequently becoming a strategy used by psychologists to help their patients1. Mindfulness is commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression, stress, and addiction.
The premise behind mindfulness is that one learns to quiet their mind, and observe their world. This includes noticing your own thoughts and feelings, noticing the details in our environment and growing to observe the actions of others. Practicing mindfulness allows you to notice these details without reacting to them. For example, Sally would normally yell and scream in traffic when someone cut her off, but when she began practicing mindfulness she simply noticed that the person cut in front of her. In the beginning she would still get flustered or angry, but she would simply take note of how she felt and withhold her yelling.
Mindfulness allows us to be in the moment, observing situations around us or within ourselves without reacting to them. This practice greatly reduces the stress and emotional discord that is present when we are reacting to everything inside our minds and outside in our environment. Additionally, research has shown that mindfulness reduces rumination, reduces stress, boosts working memory, improves focus, leads to less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, and an increase in relationship satisfaction2.
Mindfulness is commonly taught through meditation, where one can sit in observation and learn to practice how to become mindful. Time magazine does a great job at introducing five basic steps to mindfulness meditation3. Here are their steps with some personal advice mixed in. Step 1: sit in a comfortable position (e.g., chair or floor), take a deep breath, close your eyes. Step 2: Notice your breathing, don’t try to control it just take note of it. Your focus should be on the continuous in-out of your lungs. Step 3: As thoughts enter your mind to distract you from focusing on your breathing, take notice of these thoughts and bring your focus back to your breathing. Step 4: Don’t judge yourself for being distracted or try to ignore your distractions, just bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Don’t worry if this is a continuous process, with practice it will become easier. Step 5: Start by doing this mediation 10 minutes a day for a week. With time and practice you will find focusing will become easier, and you will eventually be able to extend the length of time.
This blog touches on the concept behind mindfulness, and the benefits that practicing mindfulness can have on your mind, body and soul. I encourage my clients and patients to practice with patience, learning something new takes time and mindfulness is no exception. It will take time, patience and practice before you will be able to effortlessly integrate mindfulness into your life, but the benefits can be felt almost immediately. The practice has been around for centuries, my guess is that there’s something to it.
- Davis, D., & Hayes, J. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness? Monitor on Psychology, 43(7), p 64.
- Pickert, K. (2014). The art of being mindful: Finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently. Time Magazine, 183(4). P 40-46.