Benefits, Insights and Practice of Mindfulness
In this fast paced and often stressful world, we are often running on autopilot or even worse allowing our worries and fears to shape not only our decision making but also our resulting emotions and actions. Coasting on autopilot or reacting from a place of worry or fear can create a whole mess of problems for us.
There are several concepts that I try to teach others to increase their ability to return to feeling whole, grounded, and balanced. So, they can fully and actively participate in their life and make positive and productive decisions.
One of those concepts is the practice of mindfulness.
The Oxford Dictionary describes “mindfulness” as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something”. Mindfulness assists us in being present. Being present and consciously aware of what we are experiencing and what we are needing in a particular moment is a game changer in our ability to self-regulate, make better decisions, experience positive outcomes, and engage with others instead of reacting.
Research is finding amazing benefits with the practice of mindfulness, such as:
- Improves sleep
- Reduces rumination
- Reduces stress and increases self-reported well-being
- Improves working memory
- Increases ability to focus and increases our information processing speed
- Decreases emotional reactivity and buffers us from negative psychological distress
- Increases self-insight and intuition
- Allows for more cognitive flexibility and decreased cognitive decline
- Improves relationship satisfaction
- Increases immune function
- Reduces anxiety and depression
What is the practice being mindful?
Victor Frankl (psychiatrist/psychotherapist and Holocaust Survivor) sums it up, “In between the stimulus and response there is a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom”.
This is so powerful. Re-read that quote. We have the ability to choose how we respond to any stimulus we encounter. And our response can facilitate growth and freedom (aka happiness). But we need to be aware of the space in between the stimulus and our response.
The space or moments between is the moment of being mindful. Fully present. Being conscious and aware. What happens in those instances? We experience an increase in clarity about what is happening and how it is impacting us in the moment. That is solid gold. It means with increased understanding we can see more possibilities and outcomes in any situation. We can proceed by picking the choice that will feel the best for us. The results? Make better decisions, speak kindly and lovingly to ourselves and others, respond appropriately, fully support our emotions and needs. etc.
If you have felt pushed and pulled by your emotions, felt steam rolled by others, have felt guilt or remorse for lashing out or doing hurtful things to the people in your life or struggle with physical or mental impact of experiencing too much negative emotions—I suggest you give mindfulness a try.
Mindfulness is a practice. But you can do it. Really, you can. You can increase your understanding of mindfulness concepts. You can increase your mindfulness. And you can experience all those benefits listed above when you practice mindfulness in your life.
Here is one example of a mindfulness exercise:
S: Stop. Yep, the “S” actually stands for stop 😊 Once in a while, we all need a reminder to pump the brakes. When you notice your levels of stress, frustration, or other negative emotions are raising; this is the time to stop. Pause. Take a mini time out.
T: Take a breath. Breathe in deeply, Exhale deeply. Taking a breath will help to ground you. It gets you out of your head, so you slow down whatever derailed train your thoughts are riding on. It will allow you space to release whatever is rising and begin to re-orient yourself.
O: Observe. Without judgement and without criticism, simply be an observer of your thoughts, feelings/emotional state, physical sensations, etc. What is happening in this moment? What was happening only moments before? How did you react (thoughts/feelings/sensations)? Is anything you are thinking or doing creating more stress and tension? How? Why? How would it feel to experience something else in this moment?
P: Proceed. What can be your next step? How can you manage your emotions or thoughts in a gentle and loving way? What would be a win-win outcome? Which healthy stress reduction or self-care strategies can you use in this moment?
Remember since this is a practice—not a one and done. Go back and reflect on what happened (again, without judgement or criticism). When else S-T-O-P would/ could helpful?
If you are needing more support with Mindfulness Techniques, feel free to reach out and we can chat. Mary@riversjourneycounseling.com