I RECEIVED an anonymous email asking me to talk about mindfulness today. It’s a good suggestion as it will be a very new subject to many of you. I’ve studied (as well as practised) mindfulness in detail as it is a very common practice in addiction recovery all around the world. However, as you will read, it has many other benefits for many other illnesses– both mental and physical.
Mindfulness itself is the ability to be fully present in the current situation. This means being fully aware of who we are, what we are doing, what we are feeling and so on. This also means that we accept all that we are aware of. It focuses on four important elements– body awareness, self-awareness, regulation of emotion and regulation of attention.
It is a way to prevent us from overthinking and therefore ‘over-feeling’ and over-reacting. It is about accepting who we are–flaws and all–with understanding and empathy and without judgement.
Mindfulness is mainly practised in the form of mindful meditation which absolutely anyone can do- regardless of age, gender or religion. Read further for an example of how to do it!
First, what are the benefits of mindfulness and mindful meditation?
Instead of being in denial, disliking ourselves because of certain qualities, disliking situations because of the stress it may cause, being mindful allows us to accept (without judgement) all of this. When we are mindful, we pay attention (without distraction) to everything in our lives and have the peace of mind to figure out what needs to be done. The meditation itself has proven to show many benefits as well. It is not about wanting to be different or even necessarily improve; it’s about accepting things as they are and the best way to work with them.
As mentioned, mindfulness has been shown to alleviate both mental and physical pain.
Mentally, mindfulness reduces stress and anxiety while increasing acceptance, patience and levels of concentration. It lifts our mood and level of life satisfaction. It increases self-esteem and self-confidence. It has fundamentally helped those suffering from depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and addiction, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many more.
It also allows us to have a better relationship with those around us, as our attention and listening skills are heightened. It increases self-disciple which (added to the above) makes us less violent during conflict. It allows us to relate to ourselves (and others) with kindness, empathy and compassion. Overall, it has decreased chances of depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
Physically, mindfulness has been known to increase overall immune functioning. It helps with chronic pain, lower blood pressure and respiratory rates. It has done wonders for people who suffer from asthma specifically. It improves our overall eating and sleeping patterns. It helps us to relax and breathe better. The lower levels of anger and frustration allow us to better thrive in our responsibilities such as school, work or home-making. It prevents burn-out/ exhaustion, sick days as well as low productivity and efficiency. For those going through alcohol/ drug withdrawal, mindfulness mediation has been known to cut cravings and prevent relapse in over 50 per cent of cases.
How to practise mindfulness meditation?
Set aside some uninterrupted time. Turn off/ silence all electronic devices. The purpose of this exercise is to pay attention to the present moment; to quiet the mind while creating inner peace. For beginners, I wouldn’t recommend any longer than 10 minutes. However, as you get more practice, you can do this for as long as you want/ need.
We focus on three things when practising mindfulness – body, breath and thoughts.
The body means not only our physical self but the environment we choose and how we fit into it. What are you around? What are you looking at? How are you sitting? How are your legs placed? Etc.
When you have taken in your direct environment, it is time to focus on just your breathing. After this is calm and understood, our attention goes solely to our thoughts of our current situations and feelings.
– Sit (anywhere) upright but make sure you are comfortable. The best way to sit is the picture above.
– Your eyes can be opened or closed- depends on your level of concentration.
– Start by focusing only on your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Is it calm?
– Pay attention to your breath for a few minutes. If you feel your mind wandering- that’s okay. When you’ve noticed that it has happened, gently bring your mind back to your breathing.
After a few minutes of this:
– Observe the present moment as is. How are you feeling? What is currently happening in your life that may be bothering you?
Your thinking process here should be something like this. How am I feeling? I am feeling sad and angry because I got fired today.
– Ignore all judgement that comes along with your feelings. Do not let your mind wander into anything that will promote a negative self-image.
– Our minds naturally tend to wander. In silence, it’s common to think about past events, possible future ones, our dreams and goals etc. See that this is happening and return to the present moment. (this will happen quite a few times in the beginning)
– Simply think about what has happened and accept it. Think about the solutions to that problem- not the problem itself. Forgive yourself for whatever wrong you think you’ve done.
Do this as often as you think you need to. Remember the main goal and try your best to reap its proven benefits. You can do this alone or with a partner or friend.
Thanking you for reading. Please keep sending any topics you’d like to talk about to email@example.comOr WhatsApp +592 623 0433 to book a private counselling session with me
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