Mindfulness is the practice of being fully aware and attentive to what is happening at the moment. Our minds are always on - we are always on the go with someplace to be and something to do so much that we forget to take a moment to catch our breath. It can be mentally draining to always have problem-solving, planning, worrying, therefore it is extremely important we make the effort to engage in mindfulness.
Mindfulness is an innate ability that we all possess, however, we live in a world of constant distractions which can impede our ability to be mindful. Clearing our minds is natural and nothing that requires us to stretch beyond our natural abilities. All we have to do is to get back in touch with our mindfulness capabilities through practice and deduction.
Benefits of mindfulness
For those of us that remain skeptical, the benefits of mindfulness have been studied extensively. Mindfulness is not a new or exotic concept but rather something that has existed since the beginning of time.
- Reduces stress
- Reduces pain
- Improves insomnia
- Improves overall health
- Allows us to perform better
- Allows us a safe space to relax
How to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is not something we practice once a day or once a week and then move on with our lives but rather should be treated as a way of life. To truly experience all the benefits of mindfulness we need to be present in each and every moment. To help us start this journey, however, there are a few steps we can take.
Structured mediation: This type of meditation includes three different versions 1) body scan 2) walking and 3) sitting. Body scan involves lying on your back with your palms facing up and focusing your body in order of head to toe. With walking meditation, you give yourself 10 to 20 feet in length and walk back and forth. You will zone in on your movements with each step you take. Lastly, sitting meditation is the most traditional form of meditation. You will sit cross-legged on a comfortable surface with your arms placed on the top of your legs. Your upper body will remain straight to conduct a proper flow of energy. With this mediation, you focus on your breath and your chest rising and falling. For those of us that are new to mediation, it might be helpful to follow a guided video or audio. You can also consider joining meditation classes so you can practice with others.
Non-structured mindfulness: Aside from meditation there are also small practices we can do every day to be mindful. An example is taking a breath before answering the phone or slowing down to enjoy the food you are eating. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, it is helpful to focus on your breathing as to take the focus of your thoughts and into your senses. These practices are simple and simply involve us being present in the moment and calming our minds.
Often mindfulness gets misinterpreted as being all about the mind when it is actually more about the mind-body connection. Our mind can often take flight and be anywhere but the present and therefore it is up to our bodies to bring us back.
When will your therapist engage you with ACT?
Some of the most common mental illnesses that can be treated effectively with ACT:
- Substance abuse
- Chronic pain
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
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