Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice that is still very relevant today. Mindfulness is a very simple concept, it means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
This increases awareness, clarity and acceptance of our present-moment reality.
Mindfulness does not conflict with any beliefs or tradition, religious, cultural or scientific. It is simply a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, and smells – anything we might not normally notice. The actual skills might be simple, but because it is so different to how our minds normally behave, it takes a lot of practice.
A parent might go out into the garden and as they look around think, “that grass really needs cutting, and that vegetable patch looks very untidy”. A young child on the other hand, will call over excitedly, “Come and look at this ant!” Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we don’t normally notice, because our heads are too busy in the future or in the past – thinking about what we need to do, or going over what we have done.
Mindfulness might simply be described as choosing and learning to control our focus of attention.
In a car, we can sometimes drive for miles on “automatic pilot”, without really being aware of what we are doing. In the same way, we may not be really “present”, moment-by-moment, for much of our lives: We can often be “miles away” without knowing it.
On automatic pilot, we are more likely to have our “buttons pressed”: Events around us and thoughts, feelings and sensations in the mind (of which we may be only dimly aware) can trigger old habits of thinking that are often unhelpful and may lead to worsening mood.
By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we do not have to go into the same old “mental ruts” that may have caused problems in the past.
Mindfulness studies have shown positive results in many areas. Among them are:
- Lasting decreases in physical and psychological symptoms
- An increased ability to relax.
- Reductions in pain levels and an enhanced ability to cope with pain that may not go away.
- Greater energy and enthusiasm for life.
- Improved self-esteem.
- An ability to cope more effectively with both short and long-term stressful situations.
If you want to improve your skills in the area of mindfulness, schedule an appointment with an iTherapy counselor today.