“Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.”
Our thoughts and feelings often dictate our perception of ourselves and situations in our lives. Without careful evaluation of these thoughts and feelings, we can begin to accept these experiences as truth, allowing them to dictate our moods and behaviors, deeply impacting our enjoyment in life.
As a result, many of us are products of our thoughts and feelings which can diminish our confidence, amplify feelings of depression and anxiety, and lead us to be less effective in our lives. But, what we often fail to recognize are that our thoughts and feelings are not permanent and are very often fleeting, as well as, not based on fact.
Our minds think two ways, emotionally and logically. Some of us give too much weight to our emotional mind, reacting based on the way we feel about a situation, not taking into account the facts. On the other hand, the logical mind is all reason, and sometimes people can solely operate from this mind. This is also not effective in isolation because many situations in life are not logical and require a “gut feeling” or intuition. The most effective state of mind is the wise mind, which involves integrating both our emotional and logical mind to interpret situations and problem solve.
How can one achieve this integration of the minds? Mindfulness. This is a practice that has been around for centuries, but has been more recently utilized in the western mental health world. Originating from eastern Buddhist meditation, the word “mindfulness” means being aware of the present moment and accepting it without judgement.
The mindfulness philosophy requires one to observe, acknowledge and accept present emotions, thoughts, and behaviors without trying to terminate or avoid the experience. To take the present state for what it is, whether you feel happy or sad, worrisome or excitable. That these experiences are neither negative or positive, they are just a part of our human experience. Once we relinquish control over these thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and accept them for what they are (often short lived and distorted), they begin to stop dictating our moods and behaviors.
Mindful-based approaches are being infused into many types of health treatment for various issues because it is said to be beneficial both physically and psychologically. Several studies, including one found on the Science Daily website, indicate that mindfulness practice has benefits including reduction of stress, anxiety and can alleviate symptoms of depression and other psychological and physical pain.
Psych Central provides tips for infusing mindfulness practice into everyday life. Before school/work, during lunch, on your commute home, in the shower or before bed think to yourself, S.T.O.P.
S – Stop what you are doing for a minute.
T – Take a breath. Breathe normally and naturally and follow your breath coming in and of your nose.
O – Observe your thoughts. When a thought arises, acknowledge it, sit with it and accept it. Notice any emotions that are present and name them. Research indicates just naming your emotions can have a calming effect. Then focus on your body. Any physical sensations like a racing heart, tense muscles or pain? Identify it.
P – Proceed with something that will support you in the moment. Whether that is talking to a friend or just rubbing your shoulders.
The old saying, “stop to smell the roses” is core to the mindfulness belief. When we mull over the past, and worry about the future, we miss all of the beautiful things that are right in front of us – the people, places and experiences that enrich our lives, validate our worth and bring meaning to the human experience.
Mindfulness is a skill to be practiced. Try this every day for a few minutes and see if you notice a difference!