Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Mindfulness is a word that you’ve probably heard a lot about recently. What does this actually mean, and why is it helpful?
Mindfulness is the act of stopping, noticing what you are experiencing, and doing so without any judgement. For example, taking a moment at a stop light to notice how my body feels, what emotions I have, and not coming to any judgements about myself or my feelings. If you’re like me, I’m often tense when driving and don’t realize this until I check in. My back may be slightly sore, my shoulders creeping up to my ears, and my hands gripping the steering wheel tighter than necessary. I know I have done this for many years, though with starting to practice mindfulness, have actually started to notice this. I could decide to do some deep breaths or relax my grip, though just the simple act of noticing and checking in with myself is extremely important. I’m now having an awareness for things about myself I may never have noticed.
The last part of mindfulness is something I (and I’m sure many of you) will find the hardest. Not judging what you notice. Many of us have any inner critic in our minds that is judging and belittling how we feel, act, and think. If I notice I am tense and tell myself “stop being a baby, you’re just driving,” I will more than likely actually feel worse. I have just invalidated my experience and myself, adding another layer to an already difficult situation. If I can neutrally examine and experience my feelings as they are, I am giving myself an extremely beautiful gift. Mindfulness takes daily practice, and just like with anything else, will become more second nature and easier as we progress.
Now why is this important? Research is showing that mindfulness can improve neuroplasticity, which is our brains way of reshaping and making new connections based on experiences. Meaning that mindfulness can help us with improving emotion regulation, self-compassion, focus, and memory. The more we practice mindfulness, the greater our ability to not get caught in toxic patterns of thought, and be present in the here and now. Try daily practice of a few of the below mindfulness techniques and notice the difference.
The color game
Try looking around the room that you are currently in finding 3 things of every color in the rainbow. This can help with being in the present moment, noticing your surroundings, and getting out of the thinking brain.
With so many apps and videos on youtube available, it can be easy to find a meditation you prefer. Start out with shorter ones, 3-5 minutes before working up the the longer 10-15 minute ones. It an be helpful to use guided meditations starting out, where someone is checking in with you throughout the meditation and not allowing excessive lulls of silence.
Using each sense, name something you currently smell, taste, see, feel, and hear. This is a great quick mindfulness check in that can be integrated into your day a handful of times.
Start incorporating mindfulness into your daily life and see (and feel) the change.
Written by Devan of SafeHeart Counseling. Devan is the founder and owner of SafeHeart Counseling, which provides therapy services to children, teens, and families. SafeHeart Counseling specializes in working with eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, and family conflict.