What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has made a big splash in the public consciousness of late. In our increasingly distracted society, idleness, or the practice of not being busy, is often viewed with distaste. We have become a nation of multi-taskers, always on the go and always connected to email and social media.

Woman sitting watching sunset

The constant interruptions, and a switch permanently in the ‘on’ position, are taking their toll and draining our emotional and physical energy. More people are starting to see the benefits of a timeout, being present, and switching off for a time to recharge.

So, what is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, says, “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness research is ongoing, but there is already an abundance of studies indicating that adopting mindfulness techniques can improve mental health. These results likely have a lot to do with why many anxiety and depression evidence-based therapies incorporate mindfulness practices.

For example, a review of 39 studies revealed that “mindfulness-based therapy is a promising intervention for treating anxiety and mood problems in clinical populations.”

How to Practice Mindfulness

You can use mindfulness yourself by adopting one or more of the practices below:

  1. Take occasional breaks through the day to watch the thoughts going through your mind.

Our thoughts can spend more time in the past or the future than they do in the present, and many of us rarely spend any time analyzing the thoughts occurring right now.

Sit quietly and ‘watch’ your thoughts. Don’t label them or judge them. Just let them happen. It may help if you think of your thoughts as floating clouds moving across the horizon. Sit and watch your thought clouds, but don’t chase them or try to hold onto them. Also, don’t stress if you do find yourself attaching to a thought; it’s all part of the process.

Worry and anxiety often arise from thoughts about things that haven’t happened yet, or events you experienced in the past. When you bring yourself back to the present, these negative thoughts lose their impact.

  1. Do simple breathing exercises.

A breathing exercise is an easy and always accessible way for you to deal with anxiety and stress.

Focusing on your breath is a time-honored strategy for tethering your mind to the present. Count during your inhales. When you exhale, try to make them last just a little longer. Exhaling is a trigger for the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response.

You can also try placing one hand on your belly and the other on your heart. While you inhale, notice how your belly expands.

  1. Regain your connection to your body.

Tons of research points to the healing power of yoga when it comes to stress and anxiety. More than a few studies show that yoga helps regulate the stress response by reducing physiological arousal, such as lowering blood pressure.

There are plenty of yoga poses suitable for complete beginners to help you relieve tension while making yourself more present in your body. Take note of how even small movements can redistribute your energy.

  1. Use a Meditation AppMeadow at sunrise with flowers

More people are starting to realize the power of meditation in reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression. A review of 47 studies outlined in the JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that meditation has helped people with anxiety, depression, and physical pain.

Just a few minutes of meditation in the morning may make a profound difference, and there are now many meditation apps to teach you how.

Putting it All Together

Just one or more of these simple exercises could be enough to help you get through the day without the threat of feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or stress. A short meditation, a few minutes of mindfulness through breath, or a brief yoga session can have a dramatic influence on how you feel.

However, if you or someone you know faces the challenge of an anxiety or mental health issue, seeking help through a licensed therapist is highly recommended. For more information, visit here:  Anxiety Treatment