Mindfulness is growing in popularity as a therapy tool to combat anxiety based problems. Here, I have listed some of the key points about Mindfulness, as well as explained an exercise based on its techniques. You will also find an article about Mindfulness, written by another practitioner Chloe Morris, and reproduced with kind permission of the newsletter it was published in. I think its interesting to see how our way of coping with anxiety based problems is evolving, and is moving away from prescription based solutions, with more emphasis on doing it for ourselves.
So what do we know about Mindfulness?
- Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way
- A useful skill, which is about experiencing what’s happening NOW
- Taking control of your thoughts & not letting them control you
- Its simple but it takes practice
Some common misperceptions:
- Mindfulness is not meditation (although you will often find them taught together)
- Its not meant to change things or stop your mind wandering
- Its not relaxation
All you need to try Mindfulness is:
- Patience (and practice)
- You need to trust yourself and your experience
- Its about noticing
- And accepting
- Its non judgmental
- The opposite is being ABSENT MINDED – ie not present
- So, an example of this could be: Taking a shower in the morning before work, and whilst you’re doing that you are thinking about the day ahead, tasks to do, things to remember, all of the time whilst doing something else ie having the shower. In that example, your thoughts are not related to the present moment and you are not being Mindful. But if you are in the shower, noticing everything about what is happening at that moment, the water, temperature, pressure, how it feels, how your shower gel smells and so on, you are being present in the moment and experiencing Mindfulness.
Controlling what we think about in this way helps to exclude the unhelpful thoughts we don’t want or need. Mindfulness encourages us to NOTICE
- Remember – we are not our thoughts and thoughts are not facts
- Notice rumination( when we stew over something)
- Notice autopilot (when we do things automatically or our of habit)
- Notice avoidance (when we are not taking care of what we need to)
When you are more aware, you will be able to NOTICE the link between our thoughts & feelings. Some thoughts are “Sticky” and persist – they are hard to get out of our heads. But try to imagine your thoughts are like leaves flowing on a stream, they can be taken by the current and flow away from you and out to sea.
When you practice Mindfulness exercises, at times your thoughts are likely to wander onto other things……….this is normal. When you notice your thoughts have wandered, you gently bring them back to the present. When you do this, you are being MINDFUL. Try this exercise:
Mindfulness of sounds or paying attention to sounds (practice for 2 minutes)
Sit comfortably, both feet on the floor. Rest hands on legs or lap.
Keep eyes open. Bring focus of attention into the room, in this moment.
Listen. Be aware of whatever sounds you hear.
In this exercise we just experience sounds – allow ourselves to hear any sound without trying to make out what it is. If you hear something and find yourself labelling it that’s ok, just bring your mind back to the present. Refocus.
When we listen to sounds our minds usually adds a label – when we hearing a particular tone, we say to ourselves that’s the phone ringing, or the car door shutting, or the dog barking….. That is an automatic process and we cant stop our minds interpreting like that. But our minds will also try to interpret thoughts & feelings, linking a present experience to something in the past, and projecting any worry that creates into the future. For example, we can hear an accent which reminds us of someone we used to know, who we do not want to have around, thus creating an anxiety in the present. But it’s possible to keep our minds in the present, by simply Noticing what is happening around us now.
Now for Chloe’s article about the origins of Mindfulness.
Mindfulness: From Buddhism to Business By Chloe Morris
Many of us will have had that experience of lying in bed, unable to sleep, because your mind is going round in circles about something that happened, or is worrying about what is going to happen tomorrow. All the while, your body lies in bed and although you are physically present, your mind is everywhere but where you are. There is a simple solution to this frustrating situation; simply bring awareness back to the present.
Mindfulness originated from Buddhism and meditation practice dating back 2500 years. During the 1970s, mindfulness was introduced to the western world. Fast forward a little to the 80s, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, an insight meditation student and a clinical researcher in mental health, studied meditation with other Buddhist teachers, and adapted these teachings to develop Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Since this movement, mindfulness has been used to help individuals with anxiety, depression, addictions and many other mental and physical conditions. Mindfulness’ wide use of applications has seen a rise in popularity in modern psychology. Several therapeutic applications include mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy to name a few. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can benefit just about everyone. Once mastered it can provide peace and clarity, even if for a short moment, in our hectic and over-stimulating world. The rise in its popularity in the 21st century has made it appealing to more than just the mental health sector – the business world is catching on too. At first, it seems like a conflicting concept that doesn’t make sense in the corporate world. But that clearly isn’t the case as business such as Google, Apple and Ikea have all adopted mindfulness programs. Mindfulness promotes mental wellbeing – a broad term that can mean many things, including an increase in resilience, empathy and flexibility; strengths that are appealing to businesses. Individuals who engage in mindfulness may be able to make clear decisions, have more care and concern to make positive changes, and generally show more ethical behaviour.
Research on mindfulness is heavily conducted in clinical settings, so the efficacy of mindfulness in corporate settings is pretty much unknown. Businesses put a lot of faith into it without having the relevant evidence – a dangerous move if mindfulness is being over-praised.
Whether mindfulness will be regarded in the future as a well recognised method of reducing stress and promoting efficiency in the business world, or as an outdated topic that they’ve lost interest in, is just something we will have to wait and see.
Copyright © 2014 Private Psychologist, All rights reserved