Brian Clemmons, M.Ed., LPC
In this installment we will focus on Mindfulness and look at what it is, its role in our mental and physical well being, and some examples of how to implement Mindfulness into our daily routines.
It has been said that Mindfulness is simple, but not necessarily easy. In our culture where multi-tasking and marathon work weeks are lauded, Mindfulness is a sharp contrast. It has been
said that Mindfulness is a state of mind and that Meditation (the primary activity in Mindfulness), is the activity or process by which a person engages in Mindfulness. We will explore both here.
Mindfulness suggests that we are mentally fully attending to the subject on which we are focusing. What we are doing, what is occurring around us, the object /person which we are focusing on, even the space we are moving through can all be targets in our Mindful practice.
Simple? Maybe. But not easy. We often stray from the matter at hand and are distracted by the flood of stimuli which barrage us. We ruminate on the past and stress about the future. All at the expense of being Mindful of the present. It has been said that there is always time to redo something right, even when we did not take the time to do it right the first time. I offer this to those who may feel that Mindfulness is not efficient, or alas; that it is a waste of time.
The Mayo Clinic website suggests that Mindfulness is: “ A type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement.” Mindful Magazine offers that: “ Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing while not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It is not something we have to conjure up, rather it is something we already possess and just have to learn how to access”.
The benefits of Mindfulness are well documented in research trials and include: management of depression, anxiety, pain, stress, insomnia and high blood pressure. Initial research also supports its effectiveness in management of asthma and fibromyalgia. As we experience thoughts with greater balance and acceptance, we will improve attention, decrease burn out, and improve sleep quality. Our quality and quality of work will also likely improve (Mayo Clinic website).
8 Facts About Mindfulness according to Mindful Magazine (July 8, 2020)
- Mindfulness is not obscure or exotic. It’s familiar to us because it’s what we already do, how we already are. It takes many shapes and goes by many names.
- Mindfulness is not a special added thing we do. We already have the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are. But we can cultivate these innate qualities with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and neighbors, the people we work with, and the institutions and organizations we take part in
- You don’t need to change. Solutions that ask us to change who we are or become something we’re not have failed us over and over again. Mindfulness recognizes and cultivates the best of who we are as human beings.
- Mindfulness has the potential to become a transformative social phenomenon. Here’s why:
- Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practice cultivates universal human qualities and does not require anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.
- It’s a way of living. Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress. Even a little makes our lives better.
- It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
- It sparks innovation. As we deal with our world’s increasing complexity and uncertainty, mindfulness can lead us to effective, resilient, low-cost responses to seemingly intransigent problems.
Exercises to increase Mindfulness follow. The reader is encouraged to investigate exercises on their own and adopt those which fit with their lifestyle. There are applications available on smartphones and many free web resources and ideas available through internet search engines. Always reserve a quiet time and place to engage in Mindfulness, even if just for 15 minutes. Practice makes perfect.
- Sitting Meditation– Sit in a comfortable position with back straight, arms resting at sides and hands on thighs or dangling free by side. Focus on each breath as it enters and exits the body. Change rhythm of breath so it occurs as slow as is comfortable. Really focus on breath and count the inhales and exhales. Should any physical sensation draw your attention, note its presence and then resume your meditation. Refrain from judging any sensations; simply acknowledge their presence.
- Body Scan Meditation– Lay on back with hands at side, palms facing upwards. Focus attention on each part of your body starting with toes, progressing to feet, then calves, knees and so on until all areas of the body are acknowledged. Notice the condition of each part of your body, again without judgement- simply acknowledge the state of each part. There may be emotions, physical feelings or thoughts that emerge as you check in with each area. Acknowledge and move on.
- Observation Meditation: Focus your attention on a group of people. Notice what they are doing in a factual narrative way, remaining non judgemental. Appreciate the looks on their faces and the effort they are exerting. Discover a specific subject and laser focus your attention to them. What about them caused you to notice them so intently? Just watch and become tuned in to what is happening.
Mindfulness can be a practice which restores and refreshes us for the fray that is life on life’s terms. Regularly practicing mindfulness will reap positive mental and physical benefits. We can all choose to make Mindfulness a part of our regimen.