Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. You observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, it means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
It Improves Well-being
Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life. Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem and are better able to form deep connections with others.
Improves Physical Health
If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered the benefits of mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can:
- Help relieve stress
- Treat heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce chronic pain
- Improve sleep
- Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
Improves Mental Health
In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:
- Anxiety Disorders
- Eating Disorders
- Couples’ Conflicts
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences – including painful emotions – rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance. It’s become increasingly common for mindfulness meditation to be combined with psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. This development makes good sense since both meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy share the common goal of helping people gain perspective on irrational, maladaptive, and self-defeating thoughts.
How do I practice mindfulness?
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation. Throughout psychotherapy, your therapist can help you to choose the mindfulness techniques that are the most compatible with your beliefs and your goals.
Dr. Emily VanLeeuwen is a licensed psychologist at Rejuvenate Mind-Body Wellness Center in Lees Summit, Mo. She specializes in mindfulness techniques. If you are interested in learning mindfulness skills, stress management techniques, or want to know how to cope more effectively with anxiety, Dr. Emily can help.