Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, well-known author and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts, is widely credited for bringing the concept of mindfulness to the attention of Western cultures. Paraphrasing his operational definition, mindfulness is simply using our awareness to pay attention on purpose in this moment without judgment.
What does this look like in an everyday sense? Say you are doing a brief mindfulness meditation. By slowing down your breathing and simply observing your thoughts, feelings, body, and surroundings—without getting caught up in them—you are able to notice moment-by-moment experiences happening right now, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling in the past.
This makes it easier to choose how you respond to situations instead of reacting in ways that may not help you.
Mindfulness has been found to be effective in:
- Reducing pain and improving physical health
- Strengthening relationships
- Boosting distress tolerance and reducing stress
- Easing symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Increasing positive feelings
As simple as it may sound, mindfulness changes how we relate to our world. Mindfulness can make us less reactive, calmer, and just generally happier. It builds self-awareness and curiosity. As therapy, being mindful means being aware and purposefully accepting of your thoughts and emotions.
Before you decide that doing mindful meditation is not for you, consider practicing “everyday” mindfulness while performing daily tasks. While showering, notice the temperature of the water, how it feels against your skin, the smell of the soap, the pressure of the water hitting your body, and so on. It’s healthier than spending that time ruminating on your problems while soaking wet. And you need to get clean, anyway! Apply this strategy to ordinary tasks throughout the day, and you will start to see all sorts of positive changes.
Suzette helps individuals, couples and families regulate their emotions and create lives worth living. You can follow Suzette Bray LMFT on Facebook and Instagram @suzettebraylmft for updates.