What Is Mindfulness Really?

Mindfulness practices have gained more popularity in recent years. When we think of mindfulness a lot of us may think of yoga or deep meditations in a forest somewhere. These are both wonderful practices but may not resonate with everyone. Mindfulness is the practice of doing one thing, with your full attention, at a time. When we allow ourselves to focus solely on one thing and permit ourselves to be in the present moment, we give ourselves the opportunity to be fully engaged in the here and now moment rather than having one foot in the present and the other in whatever our mind is thinking about. This can sound challenging at first but with effort, we can give ourselves the tools to enhance our concentration, decrease our stress and fully attune to what is going on around us. 

Where to Start?

A great way to begin our foundational for mindfulness is to start by focusing on one thing, any one thing. In reality, this can be difficult since we are socially programmed to maximize every second by multitasking as much as possible. This means pursuing mindfulness can be challenging. It’s okay. There are no expectations and just like anything, it will take time, dedication and practice to hone your skills. To prevent from becoming frustrated or judging ourselves for struggling at first, we can encourage ourselves to show ourselves compassion and gratitude for trying something new to improve our well-being. If we begin a mindfulness practice, anything from driving our car to focusing on our breath, and we notice our mind is wandering elsewhere, we can gently recognize it and redirect ourselves back to the focus of our practice in the present moment. We can do this each time we have noticed our mind has wandered and by redirecting it each time, we are reminding ourselves that we have control over our thoughts and are capable of overcoming distractions. 

Each person is different so naturally, how we start may be different as well. One person may pick mindfully listening to a song while another may choose to mindfully drink a beverage while another may decide to mindfully focus on their breath. There is no wrong way to practice mindfulness as long as you are staying engaged in the present moment and bringing yourself back whenever you notice your mind has wandered. 

Benefits

Staying present can have wonderful benefits, it can reduce our stress, enhance our concentration and improve our sleep. This is because when we allow our minds to buzz about from topic to topic, stressor to stressor we are actually putting ourselves through that stress twice. If something is truly going to be challenging, then it will be challenging whether we perseverate about it or not so when we focus on how difficult it will be we are ensuring we will struggle both times. By honing our mindfulness skills, we allow ourselves to be engaged and focused in the present and give ourselves room to enjoy what is in front of us. Mindfulness can be a wonderful tool for those struggling with anxiety, emotional dysregulation due to trauma reminders, relationship stressors and a myriad of other challenges. If you feel this is something you are struggling, please reach out so we can enhance your mindfulness practice together.

By Marissa Ahern, LMSW