Lately it seems mindfulness is beyond a buzz word – it is all we hear about and it seems to suddenly be the answer for a number of issues. How is this possible?!
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is: the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training.
It is present moment awareness, and can be used to develop self knowledge and wisdom.
History of Mindfulness
Mindfulness actually made its debut in 1500 BC during yoga practices in the Hindu religion. It was also used in qi gong exercises in the 6th century and has been used in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions.
Since the 1970s mindfulness has made a comeback thanks largely to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School .
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction came first, treating people for a variety of conditions including chronic pain, heart disease, anxiety, psoriasis, sleep problems and depression.
In the 90s it was adapted to include treatment for depression.
Currently it is used to help with personality disorders and anxiety and can help relieve stress, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties, and reduce chronic pain.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Well, there are many ways to go about it but first it is important to know that the common goal is to deliberately pay attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment in order to achieve a state of alert and focused relaxation.
It helps you be present. In the moment. When was the last time you thought about the feeling of the sun on your skin as you walked to your car?
You probably typically think about your spouse and dinner and picking the kids up and the laundry and bills and a million other things, but not on what you are feeling or thinking in the moment itself. Some people choose to use recordings to practice mindfulness.
This can be helpful especially when starting out because you simply listen to the voice instruct you and it will walk you through every step.
Body Scan Mindfulness Meditation
There are also ways to do this on your own with no device. One that I like to use is a Body Scan from DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).
In order to do this, you will want to sit in a relaxed position. Begin by focusing on your breathing. Think about your breath flowing to each part of your body.
Start by directing your attention to your toes on your left foot. Notice the feelings or sensations in your toes while continuing to focus on your breathing.
Think about what you are feeling in your toes. Continue to focus on your toes for several minutes. Next move your focus to the arch and heel on your left foot. Keep being aware of your breathing while you feel the sensations in your arch and heel.
Again, focus on your arch and heel for several minutes. In a nutshell, you will follow the same procedure with your left ankle, calf, knee, upper leg and thigh.
Next move through your pelvis, lower back, stomach, then chest, left hand, arm and shoulder, right hand, arm and shoulder, neck, chin, tongue, mouth, lips, lower face and nose.
Then upper cheeks, eyes, forehead, and scalp and finally hair. Don’t worry if you notice thoughts, sensations or sounds come through your awareness.
Notice them then gently refocus your mind. Don’t worry if your mind has been drawn away from the body part you were focusing on and you find yourself thinking about something else.
This happens often. Just calmly, but with resolution, turn your focus back to your breathing and your body.
You may need to bring your attention back over and over. Don’t be fazed by this. It is the practice of non-judgment that is at the root of mindfulness. Just recognize it, direct your mind back to your breathing and do not judge yourself or your thoughts.
This was an example of a Body Scan which is a mindfulness practice.
By training your brain to be present-focused, you will create healthy patterns that will assist you with stress and overall wellness.
Sometimes we need extra help with mindfulness or techniques to employ along with mindfulness. If you find that this is the case, please visit nayaclinics.com to schedule an appointment with myself or one of our other therapists.