Depression is living in the past. Anxiety is worrying about the future. Peace can only be found in the present. – Loa Tzu
Our minds are always processing thoughts. Thoughts can be a friend if they help us to be innovative or problem solve, but thoughts can be our enemy if they induce worry or if they relay negative messages to us about ourselves. Managing your thoughts is one of the advantages of mindfulness. The term “mindfulness” is the mental state of awareness which focuses on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgement.
Several disciplines and practices can cultivate mindfulness, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, but most of the literature has focused on mindfulness that is developed through mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation are those self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental activities under greater control. The goal is to foster development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).
Mindfulness has proven beneficial with regulating mood and improving physical health. Much research supports the use of mindfulness meditation to promote awareness, decrease rumination, and enhance focus. The cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotional-regulation skills.
Individuals who ruminate tend to repeatedly mull over negative emotions in their mind. Whereas mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge negative emotions but to simply allow them to pass. The practice of mindfulness reduces rumination resulting in fewer depressive symptoms and decreased negative affect (Chambers et al., 2008).
Stress reduction & emotional reactivity.
Many studies demonstrate how mindfulness reduces stress-related anxiety as well. Hoffman et al.(2010) study concluded that mindfulness-based therapy may be useful in changing the way in which we process negative experiences leading to multiple clinical issues. Those findings are consistent with evidence that mindfulness meditation increases positive affect and decreases anxiety and negative affect. Findings from (Farb et al., 2010; Williams, 2010) suggest that mindfulness meditation shifts people’s ability to use emotion regulation strategies in order to selectively experience emotions. Individuals who practice mindfulness are less prone to behave impulsively and can regulate their emotions under stressful circumstances. Mindfulness practices not only help individuals disengage from negative feelings but also assists individuals with becoming less reactionary.
Focus is the clarity of mind needed to productively meet the challenges associated with our daily lives. Research on mindfulness shows that it has been effective to clear the clutter, so to speak, by suppressing distracting information and improving cognitive flexibility. With that said, we can anticipate performance to increase in our work and personal life spaces.
Relationship satisfaction can improve emotional health. Evidence suggests that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of relationship conflict (Barnes et al., 2007). Practicing mindfulness can enhance a person’s ability to respond positively to relationship stress, by developing skills that encourage open and honest communication about thoughts and feelings.
Here are 3 Ways to Integrate Mindfulness in your Daily Life:
- Choose something you do every day and set the intention to do it more mindfully (ie eating and drinking, making your bed, taking a shower, or washing dishes). For example, when making your bed pay attention to the weight of the sheets, the motion of your hands as your spreading the sheets over the bed, or the textures of the fabric as you smooth the covers. See if you can let go of any thoughts about the past or worries about the future. Just pay attention to all that is going on within that moment.
- Perform movements mindfully. On walks, pay attention to the feeling of your feet hitting the ground with each step, notice how your body moves, notice how your breathing changes over time or when walking uphill.
- Have a mindful conversation with someone. Having a mindful conversation simply means being present, non-judgmental, letting go of any distractions like your phone or other tasks you could be doing by giving your time and attention to only that one person.
Are You Ready to give mindfulness meditation a try?
Incorporating mindfulness practices daily requires commitment, but it is easy to learn. However, mindfulness meditation should be introduced as a guided process by someone who is trained. It would require that you set aside time during the day in a quiet space to perform meditation exercises. Shortly thereafter, this intervention can be done independently with the help of smartphone apps and other online tools. The practice of mindfulness whether with small tasks or 10-20 minute meditative exercises needs to be performed with consistency to see progress. Please do not be discouraged or give up. With time and practice, you will soon discover this powerful tool to improving overall well-being.
Barnes, S., Brown, K. W., Krusemark, E., Campbell, W. K., & Rogge, R. D. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and responses to relationship stress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33, 482–500. doi:10.1111/j.1752– 0606.2007.00033.x
Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322. doi:10.1007/s10608- 007–9119-0
Davis, D. M., & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness. American Psychological Association, 48, 198-208. doi:10.1037/a0022062
Farb, N. A. S., Anderson, A. K., Mayberg, H., Bean, J., McKeon, D., & Segal, Z. V. (2010). Minding one’s emotions: Mindfulness training alters the neural expression of sadness. Emotion, 10, 25–33. doi:10.1037/a0017151.supp
Hoffman, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 169 –183. doi:10.1037/a0018555
Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. L. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61, 227–239. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.61.3.227
Williams, J. M. G. (2010). Mindfulness and psychological process. Emotion, 10, 1–7. doi:10.1037/a0018360
For more information about the benefits of mindfulness please read the complete metanalytic study published by (Davis & Hayes, 2011): https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/pst-48-2-198.pdf