Practicing mindfulness

Mindfulness is a common buzzword used in mental health spaces. Often those dealing with mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression, are told to practice mindfulness as part of their care plan, in conjunction with therapy and medication. But what exactly is mindfulness and how can you practice mindfulness as part of your normal life?

Mindfulness is a meditation technique where a person learns to be fully present and engaged in the current moment without judgement, including negative thoughts and feelings and sensations. There have been many studies that show that mindfulness-based therapy approaches have been shown to help both adults and children with many physical and psychological conditions. And mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has been shown to help prevent relapse of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), in those with reoccurring MDD. Mindfulness is a technique that you can learn and work on your own or with a therapist. Mindfulness is considered a form of meditation and there are many ways to begin practicing mindfulness.

If you are new to meditation but want to begin practicing mindfulness on your own or with a therapist a good place to start is with guided meditation. This type of meditation is lead by another person and can be done in person, with a therapist or guide, or online through audio or video. During guided meditation another person helps you focus your attention on your thoughts or feelings or surroundings. Guided meditations are usually no longer than 20 minutes and can take as little as 5 minutes. Guided meditation is a great way to start practicing mindfulness, especially if you don’t have experience with meditation. There are many free and paid apps and websites if you want to begin on your own, or you can find a guide that you enjoy and are comfortable with.

Another popular way to practice mindfulness in your daily life is called one-minute mindfulness. With one-minute mindfulness you take 1 minute to focus on breathing, your body, eating, or listening. This is a great way to ground yourself, get out of your head, and be present.

  • To practice mindful breathing begin observing your breathing. Breathe as you normally do and notice the time between each inhalation and exhalation, notice your lungs filling with air and emptying. Whenever your mind wanders, without judgment, bring your attention back to your breathing. You can do this throughout your day or whenever you feel particularly anxious or overwhelmed.
  • Another 1-minute meditation is called a body scan or body awareness. This type of mindfulness is particularly useful when you feel stuck in your head or overwhelmed by your thoughts. Use your 1 minute to focus on physical sensations in your body. Start with closing your eyes and scanning your body and how it is feeling. Focus on what you’re physically feeling. Is there heaviness? Tension? Maybe nothing at all. Begin with your feet and slowly move up your body until you reach the top of your head.
  • Mindful walking is another 1-minute technique where you can focus on your physical sensations and feelings. You can do this at any walking speed. Focus on the soles of your feet and the sensations in your muscles and legs as you walk. Whenever your mind wanders, without judgment, bring your attention back to the soles of your feet and the present moment.
  • Mindful eating is a good way to appreciate and enjoy eating. This can also help if you struggle with eating. Start by looking at your food and focusing on how it looks. Try and put your whole attention on the food in front of you. Then begin to eat. Focus on chewing slowly and noticing the textures and tastes. You can do this for 1 minute or the whole meal.
  • Mindful listening is a way to focus on your present moment and help you be more in tune with your environment. Begin by taking a minute to listen to the world around you. Try to focus on what you hear. A bird, cars on the street, someone typing on a keyboard, try and recognize the sound, label it, and then move to the next sound you can hear taking in the environment around you.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness and many benefits for those who practice mindfulness. Mindfulness based treatments have been shown to reduce symptoms of both anxiety and depression. There is also evidence that mindfulness can lower blood pressure and help improve quality of sleep. Some studies also show that mindfulness helps with pain management.

Practicing mindfulness is a good way to start working on your mental health. However, if you begin feeling that you need professional assistance and help, it is important to reach out to your health care provider.

Author: Kellen Olivia Kiisler

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