By Amy Zellmer
“Mindfulness clears the windshield of the mind so that we can see things as they really are.” Travis Eliot
What is Mindfulness?
A state of nonjudgmental awareness of what’s happening in the present moment, including the awareness of one’s own thoughts, feelings, and senses.
You act mindfully when you listen to a song you love, and notice every tiny detail in the sound. Or maybe you’ve felt anxiety before a big event like a wedding or a job interview, and acknowledged that feeling and chose to simply accept it.
Components of Mindfulness
During a state of mindfulness, you will notice your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as they happen. The goal isn’t to clear your mind or to stop thinking — it’s to become aware of your thoughts and feelings rather than getting lost in them.
The thoughts, feelings, and sensations you notice should be observed in a nonjudgmental manner. For example: if you notice a feeling of nervousness, simply state to yourself: “I notice that I am feeling nervous.” There’s no need to further judge or change the feeling.
Benefits of Mindfulness:
- Reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Greater satisfaction within relationships
- Improved memory, focus, and mental processing speed
- Reduced rumination (repetitively going over a thought or problem)
- Improved ability to adapt to stressful situations
- Improved ability to manage emotions
Mindfulness is a state of mind, rather than a particular action or exercise. However, without practice, mindfulness is difficult to achieve. These techniques are designed to help you practice.
Sit in a comfortable place and pay attention to your breathing. Notice the physical sensation of air filling your lungs, and then slowly leaving. When your mind wanders — which it will — simply notice the thoughts and bring your attention back to breathing.
While walking, make a point to practice mindfulness. Start by noticing how your body moves and feels with each step. Then expand your awareness to your surroundings. What do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? This technique can also be expanded to other daily activities.
In the moment, distressing emotions may seem impossible to overcome. However, over time these emotions will lessen in intensity and eventually fade away. Use the acronym ACCEPTS for seven techniques for distracting yourself from the distressing emotions until they pass.
- Activities — do an activity requiring thoughts and concentration
- Contributing — do something that allows you to focus on another person
- Comparisons — put your situation in perspective by comparing it to something more painful
- Emotions — do something to create a new emotion that will compete with your distress
- Pushing away — avoid a painful situation from your mind using techniques such as imagery
- Thoughts — use a mental strategy or activity to shift your thoughts to something neutral
- Sensations — find safe physical sensations to distract you from distressing emotions