What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a wonderful yet unusually difficult skill to acquire. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of what we are doing and where we are in that moment. This may seem easy in principle but think back to the last time you actually stopped to appreciate the present. All too often we’re focusing on what other people are doing around us or what we’re going to make for dinner that we let that beautiful present of the presence pass us by.
Mindfulness is a basic human ability that we all have inside us. However, like learning to walk, if we don’t take that first step and begin to practice it, we won’t be very good at it.
Mindfulness in Therapy
Becoming more mindful is a great skill for everyone but especially for those experiencing anxiety or depression. Anxious thoughts, worries, and depressed moods often take someone away from a mindful state. Although your mind may feel full, it is not fully present. Therefore, it is very beneficial to practice mindfulness during therapy.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness practice is great for stress reduction and relaxation. This in itself will lead to reduced anxiety and better mood. Additionally, it helps a person become more aware of their emotions and thinking patterns. For example, someone may feel sadness but not understand why they are sad or what to do about it. Mindfulness can help to increase awareness and attachment to those emotions so that those questions can be answered. Both these components are crucial in overcoming anxiety and depression.
Most commonly, a therapist will use mindfulness meditations, which will guide the person to direct their attention to the present moment. However, there are various mindfulness techniques that can be used in conjunction or in place of meditation. One simple practice is called the “5 senses”, which works great for adults, adolescents, and children. Whenever you have a second, stop and think of:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you are touching (or that are touching you)
- 3 things that you can hear
- 2 things that you can smell
- 1 thing that you can taste.
Once you have gone through all 5 senses, reflect on how it made you feel. Do you feel more aware of yourself and your surroundings? Do things seem clearer? Do you feel calmer?
Once the knowledge and skill of mindfulness have been acquired in therapy, the person is encouraged to incorporate it into their daily lives. These skills are especially useful in times of stress or in situations that are emotionally overwhelming.