What is mindfulness? How can it benefit me?
Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, openness, and focus – a state that conveys enormous physical and psychological benefits. Mindfulness has been known about in the East for thousands of years but in the last 5 to 10 years the practice of mindfulness has become part of psychological treatment.As you learn to practice mindfulness in daily life you will raise your level of psychological flexibility, and learn to manage daily life in a new way. The greater your psychological flexibility the better you can handle painful thoughts and feelings, and the more effectively you can take action to make your life more meaningful.Mindfulness is about awareness: noticing our thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindfulness enables us to learn a new way to relate to our thoughts and feelings, learning to open and accept what is there rather than fighting it and trying to enforce a different reality.
Practice of mindfulness: Awareness of your breath
Make yourself comfortable and close your eyes. I want you to notice the rise and fall of your rib cage and the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Follow the air in through your nose. Notice how your lungs expand. Feel your abdomen push outward. Follow the air back out, as the lungs deflate. Continue to notice these sensations for the next 60 seconds.
Notice what happens.
Notice how you feel.
Notice what your mind was doing.
Now we are going to practice this again a couple more times and your job is to just observe your body without judgment.
How does mindfulness work?
By the time we have become an adult, we have lost the ability to connect to the now and accept life for what it really is. Our mind has learnt to justify, rationalise, deny, intellectualise, and generally try to escape from the unwanted reality. We lose the ability to be in the now and experience life without judgment.
Our conscious mind and ego take over our state of being, and we learn to escape reality by shutting down painful emotions and thoughts. As a result, we lose touch with ourselves and we become scared of our emotions and dark thoughts. We try alcohol and drugs or other ways of shutting down these thoughts and feelings, but this is a short-term solution to a human condition.
The fact is that everyone experiences difficult emotions and dark thoughts, and mindfulness helps us to look at these thoughts and emotions in a non-judgmental way. By learning mindfulness our mind and nervous system get the chance to slow down, and this has enormous benefits to our physical and psychological well-being. By enabling our nervous system to slow down, we can reduce stress and anxiety, and allow the body to rest rather than fight. By using mindfulness on a daily basis, your mind and body learns not to fight with reality, and this has enormous benefits for you and those around you.
Mindfulness teaches us to be in the here and now, and this is where happiness and contentment live. When we are consumed with fighting reality and shutting down emotions we cannot connect to life, and so we miss out on these feelings of contentment and happiness.
At times mindfulness is easy and at times it is incredibly hard. In fact, one of the hardest things about mindfulness is remembering to practice it! No matter how deeply connected we are with the here-and-now experience, our thoughts will continually pull us out of that experience. So we have to keep noticing what we are doing, realizing that our mind has taken over again, and reconnect with our internal life.
Below you will find links to selected resources available on the Internet which we believe can help clients in their understanding and practice of mindfulness. If you know of other resources that you’d like to share with others, please let us know.
Dr Russ Harris – Act Mindfully
Free Mindfulness apps for your smartphone
If you have an iPhone you can download these apps from the Apple iTunes Store.
If you have an Android phone, they’re available from Google Play