By Karen Vaughn, MEd, LPC, CEAP, SAP
Mindfulness is being “aware” -- aware of what you are choosing to think every moment, and then using simple techniques to evaluate your own thoughts. The idea of being mindful requires being present and being more conscious of life as it happens. I frequently discuss mindfulness with my clients and suggest that they focus on staying in the “here and now.”
For many of us, mindfulness can be difficult to maintain because we are often not present in our own lives. We fail to take note of the good things or hear what our bodies are telling us. Our minds are easily distracted with examining past events and anticipating future ones. For example, have you ever been driving in your car and 20 minutes later you arrive at your destination, but can’t remember the journey you took to get there?
Once you become aware of your own thoughts, you can learn how to stop the unhealthy reactions to stressors in your life by challenging self-destructive and self-sabotaging thinking. Current research suggests that mindfulness practices are useful in the treatment of pain, stress, anxiety, depressive relapse, disordered eating, addictions and more. It has also been concluded that positive results occur for those who do not experience these disorders. I use mindfulness as a psychological tool for stress reduction and the elevation of positive emotions with my clients. Many of these clients have reported that they worry less and are also less distracted and “stressed out.”
One mindfulness training practice I like to encourage clients to try is meditation. Did you know that many people who meditate have better mental health? It has also been found that they have better relationships, more friends and feel much fulfilled in their lives. Meditation is an amazing tool for overall wellness. It can be practiced at any time and can quickly bring lasting results.
Here are some tips to help you be more mindful:
- Learn meditation. It clears the mind.
- Do things slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice but it helps you focus on the task.
- Spend at least a few minutes each day doing nothing. Just sit in silence. Become aware of your thoughts and focus on your breathing.
- Stop worrying about the future. Focus on the present. Become more aware of your thinking -- are you constantly worrying about the future? Learn to recognize when you’re doing this, and then practice bringing yourself back to the present. Just focus on what you are doing right now.
- When you are talking to someone, be present. How often do you spend time with someone but spend that time thinking about what you need to do in the future or what we want to say next, instead of really listening to that person?
- Savor your life. Just as you would savor your food by eating it more slowly.
- Practice, practice, practice. When you get frustrated, just take a deep breath and keep on practicing.
I challenge you for one month to try mindfulness. Apply the techniques above and see if they change the way you feel mentally, physically and emotionally. For the technology-savvy people, there are meditation applications you can download for free from your mobile marketplace.