By Amanda Schwait, Ph.D.
You’ve probably seen the word “mindfulness” around a lot in the last five years. And while the word is thrown around in popular culture, I find that, oftentimes, people don’t always know exactly what it means. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading researchers and proponents of mindfulness in the United States, defines the term as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”
Mindfulness is a break from our constantly divided and analytical mind. It gives us a few moments to pay attention to what is actually in front of us instead of being focused on the past or future. And that’s it! No need to be a Zen monk, having daily, seated meditation sessions or being an advanced yogi. We’re just talking about being present in our lives.
Finding new ways to decrease anxiety or improve relationships can be difficult, but perhaps mindfulness is the answer you’re seeking.
Why Do I Need It?
Mindfulness is a break from our constantly divided and analytical mind. Click To Tweet
Why do we want to be mindful? Well, the list of reasons grows as research continues. Mindfulness has been shown to:
- Help with emotional recognition
- Improve interpersonal relationships
- Decrease blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
- Improve sleep
- Decrease anxiety and stress
- Improve memory and attention
Let’s take an example that many of us can relate to: on the way to work one morning, you start thinking about a home improvement project that you’d started last week, but didn’t quite finish. You try to think of another time to finish but realize you have a totally full weekend coming up. You remember the last time you had a project that wasn’t finished and think, “I never complete projects I start.” By the time you pull into a parking space at work, you feel anxious, down about yourself and tired. You’re already filled with anxiety and stress, and the day hasn’t even started.
This is where mindfulness comes in. What if the drive to work had been spent consciously paying attention to the clouds, traffic lights, trees and music? Alternatively, even if the thoughts had occurred during your drive, how could taking five deep, mindful breaths before stepping into the office affect you and let you relax? Taking a few moments to relax can be extremely helpful in releasing some anxiety and stress.Taking a few moments to relax can be extremely helpful in releasing some anxiety and stress. Click To Tweet
A Good Place to Start
Now that you know what it means to be mindful and the positive effects it can have in your life, it’s time to consider where you could start being “mindful” during your day. You can start small and work your way up:
- Time yourself for one minute and pay attention to what you’re doing/experiencing without judging it.
- Take three to five deep breaths the next time you’re outside and let yourself be in the moment. Feel the breeze and the sun.
- While walking into a store, notice the air temperature, scenery, feeling of your shoes on the ground and your breath.
- When eating dinner, think deeply about the flavors and textures of your meal instead of browsing through your phone.
Rice Psychology Group Can Help
Another great way to start practicing is by beginning mindfulness-based therapy. At Rice Psychology Group, we can help you develop a mindfulness practice with individual therapy. And stay tuned for potential mindfulness-based group therapy opportunities in the future! Having someone help in making mindfulness a part of your daily routine can be invaluable and is a great way to learn the specific techniques that could work for you.
As with most things these days, there are also apps for your phones and tablets that can be helpful. If you search for mindfulness apps on your phone, you’ll find options such as Headspace, The Mindfulness App and Calm.com. All of these are great ways to begin a mindfulness practice. If you have any questions about how our Tampa team of psychologists can help you or your loved ones, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our staff is ready to provide you with all of the information you need.