Understanding Mindfulness: What It Is and Its Role in Reducing Stress, Depression and Anxiety
The world that we live in is often hectic and fast-paced. There is a societal pressure to not just constantly keep up, but to try to get ahead. This can cause immense stress and anxiety. We would all benefit from practicing mindfulness, but what exactly is it?
What is Mindfulness?
Psychology Today describes mindfulness as a state of active and open attention to the present. It is a state of being fully aware of one's thoughts or feelings at a given moment in time. The individual should not judge their present feelings as good or bad, but should simply observe what they are and allow themselves to feel. There is no worrying about what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. It is simply living in the present moment.
The history of mindfulness can be traced back to Buddhist and Hindu teachings. Practicing Buddhists follow a journey toward enlightenment. The first step that embarks on such a journey is known as "sati," which heavily emphasizes being aware and present. This is essentially mindfulness in a nutshell.
The ultimate goal of mindfulness is to gain perspective on one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sense of being. Sometimes these can be difficult to comprehend, but learning to be in tune with them is a beautiful thing. This can lead to stress reduction and potentially provide pain relief. Mindfulness may also help alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness takes patience and persistence. The easiest way to begin practicing is to meditate. Choose a quiet and relaxing environment and then choose a space to sit. Close your eyes, too, if you’d like. Begin by taking in a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale. Repeat this process and focus on each breath.
After several deep breaths, begin to tune into the feelings, emotions, and thoughts that you are experiencing at that moment. Be honest with yourself. Do not be judgmental, especially toward any negative feelings. Remember that everybody experiences negative thoughts and feelings at some point.
Another thing to note is to analyze what could have possibly triggered what you are feeling. No matter if it was something positive or negative, tuning into this can help you learn more about yourself. If you experience a positive reaction to something, you learn that you want to keep pursuing it. If you experience a negative reaction, you’ll know that you want to avoid it as much as possible.
How Does Mindfulness Reduce Stress?
Mindfulness aids in helping us recognize our emotions and being fully aware of them when they occur. When you learn what triggers stress, you will become aware of how it makes you feel and accept that those feelings are valid. It may even help you learn what you can do to manage stress healthily. Taking a few quiet moments to gather yourself and come back to your center helps to feed the awareness and acceptance that makes up the concept of mindfulness.