I have used mindfulness as a highly effective technique to help individuals in therapy and as part of a self-management programme. The brain is incredibly powerful and needs rest time to sort our thought processes and the multitude of messages that are going on second by second.
Mindfulness enables individuals to take a step out of what can seemingly be chaotic non-stop chattering of the mind, so that they can fully participate in reality and be intentionally present in the moment.
Over time mindfulness is an attitude of mind which we develop, where we learn to become more accepting of how our world and our part in it actually is.
Mindfulness enables individuals to be more aware of and more accepting of their thoughts and feelings using techniques like meditation and breathing. This equips them to intentionally focus on and accept what is on their mind or what they are doing in that moment.
For example we can all too easily be drawn into a culture that drives us to work such long hours for what we think will be better quality of life in the long run, but I want to challenge you today to ask yourself would that be worth it or would your quality of life be better at a slower pace where you notice and remember more “in the moment” experiences.
Mindfulness helps individuals to notice barriers, which get in the way of what they are doing, enabling them to take control reducing the potentially negative impact of those barriers e.g. other tasks or worries. It helps them to fully notice and engage with what is going on, including what they can see, hear, touch and taste. It becomes a more positive way of being which enhances the wellbeing and relationships of those practising mindfulness on a regular basis.
Counteracting myths about mindfulness
Mindfulness is not the same as relaxation and isn’t always related to calming oneself. Instead mindfulness is bringing experiences into awareness in a non-judgmental way. This may involve calming or challenging the client’s perspective, but most of all it is noticing and being present in the moment.
On the occasions I have used mindfulness to help an individual to experience calm they have been able to think more clearly which has helped them with everyday life and in working therapeutically. The wider context of the mindfulness theory is about equipping individuals with coping tools ultimately resulting in improving performance and positive action taking which counteracts the implied apathy of an escapist attitude.
A misconception of mindfulness is that it can lead to avoidance and an unhealthy escapist or lazy attitude. In the context of use of mindfulness in counselling and psychotherapy it is not about avoiding reality, but instead it can be about looking reality in the eye and working through it in the safe environment of the therapeutic relationship.
I have had the privilege of seeing mindfulness lead to significant light bulb moments, where clients have seen and faced reality head on and through doing so have worked through issues with a new perspective e.g. fostering acceptance and empowering them to take positive actions.