Our world can feel frenzied. Our minds can feel preoccupied with the many obligations and responsibilities. We may find it challenging to turn off a constant stream of racing thoughts and the more we tell our minds to stop, the more they race. The continual stream of thoughts can leave us feeling exhausted and mentally numb.
How can we begin to calm ourselves and slow down our minds in the midst of the constant list of things that need our attention? Practicing mindfulness gradually trains our brain to refocus on the present moment. Additionally, mindfulness allows us to respond to the stressors in our life with care and increases clarity.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)
Mindfulness involves bringing our focused attention to the present moment with an attitude of openness. Mindfulness provides a rich source of information about what is happening in the present so that we can be more responsive and intentional in how we live our lives.
Researchers have been studying mindfulness as a therapy intervention for over 30 years, and it has had a tremendous impact on the field. There is research support for the use of mindfulness in treating stress, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, addiction, and a number of other psychological problems.
Although we often don’t have control over our thoughts and feelings in a given moment, the cultivation of mindfulness allows us to learn to relate to our thoughts and feelings more effectively. They no longer become barriers to living a valued life.
Traditionally, mindfulness has been taught through meditation and many therapies and counseling practices continue to emphasize meditation as a means to cultivate mindfulness. A few of the ways mindfulness can be applied to our experience are illustrated and provided below.
Mindfulness of Thinking: when we are mindful of our thoughts, we learn to observe our process of thinking, rather than being caught up in it. It’s a way of looking at the content of our thinking as a opposed to buying into it completely. Put differently, it is like being on the bank of the stream, watching the water flow by, rather than being pushed and swept away while in the middle of stream.
Mindfulness of feelings: Acceptance or willingness of emotions involves actively choosing to be with painful feelings, allowing them to come and go without struggle. It does not mean we like them, or want to have them, but we will simply allow them to be, as they are, without trying to force our feelings to be different.
Mindfulness of the present moment: Contact with the present moment allows us to connect with our experience right now, with an attitude of openness and curiosity, without judgement.
Through the cultivation of these skills, we learn to step back and observe what’s going on in our internal and external world. This is sometimes called the “observer self.”
From the observing self, we can look at our thinking, feelings, and bodily sensations. We become more in contact with our five senses: touch, taste, hearing, sight, and smell. As we contact our observer self, we may find we have more choices in how we respond to painful experiences. These are but a few examples of how one can relate differently to their experiences to promote personal growth in their lives.
At Family Legacy Counseling we are committed to helping people disarm anxiety, depression, and other life problems so that they can live fuller and more meaningful lives. Our approach is dynamic and focused on our clients’ values and specific life situations. More than helping people to feel better, we want to help them live better.
If you’ve been looking for a professional counselor in Des Moines, Johnston, or the surrounding suburbs, we can help. Please call us at (515) 727-1338 or fill out our online form to request an appointment and one of our staff will contact you to set up an appointment.