We spend much of our time in our heads, thinking about the past or worrying about the future. We interact with others and feel triggered and we are often tied to past events and relationships in our mind. It often seems that everything we do is affected by our thoughts about someone or something else. As Scott Peck famously said “ Life is difficult” and that can be said to be true a lot of the time. I wonder if we are doing enough to counter it.
The benefits of staying in the moment and making choices based on that have long been heralded by many practitioners of mindfulness. A Harvard Health bulletin describes the practice well:
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment—and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.
Many people find staying in the moment difficult as our modern brains are programmed to process and solve issues continually. We are always on the go mentally and physically and our culture values and encourages this. The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism, but most religions include some type of prayer or meditation technique that helps shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life. It has been demonstrated that practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.
This post is too short to discuss various types of mindfulness but using it often in my daily practice has brought benefits to people. I use a mindful meditation “ A Walk In The Forest” to allow clients to meet their inner child or younger self. On that journey, when their mind is relaxed, they often recall other events lost in memory. Clients really enjoy this mindful experience even though it can be very emotional.
It is very important as a therapist to promote and practice mindful techniques. I recommend meditation on a daily basis to promote relaxation and good sleep. I keep a daily mindful journal charting how I plan to stay mindful during the day and what I feel grateful for.
One of the unexpected benefits of introducing mindful techniques has been in helping clients with conflict resolution. It is very easy to be drawn into escalation as instant triggers take over and the ability to deal with the issue at hand becomes more difficult. These “ flash points” that exist in all relationships can be often over very quickly if the couple can stay in the moment and be mindful of what they are saying and doing. Choosing not to escalate and bring in other issues is easier if the couple is fully present. Most of these minimal conflict events can be solved quickly and efficiently under these circumstances. This is also important in other significant relationships too. Being conscious of what you feel, the emotions you are feeling and what is best for you in that moment will always point you in the right direction.
Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing. Jon Kabat-Zinn