Mindfulness is the practice of becoming intensely and intentionally aware of yourself and your surroundings in the present moment. This can be achieved in a variety of different ways and has been found to be beneficial for a number of different mental and physical health conditions.
Examples of Mindfulness
Mindfulness activities can take place in groups, alone, or as part of an individual therapy session with a practitioner. Mindfulness can involve a range of different activities, including:
- Mindful walking – walking slowly and purposefully, taking in all of the sensations of the ground underfoot, the wind blowing on your face, the warmth from the sunshine on your skin, etc.
- Guided meditation – a number of free videos on Youtube can help a person to calm their nerves, become more focused, or fall asleep
- Mindful eating – a lot of people eat on autopilot or extremely quickly, barely tasting their food. Mindful eating means slowing down and experiencing the flavors, texture, temperature, etc.
- Yoga, tai chi, qigong and other exercise modalities – most communities offer classes for these types of mindful movement, and instructional videos can also be found online.
- Mindful breathing – stopping for several minutes or more to pay attention to your breathing and how your body feels in that moment.
- Mindful listening – when someone is talking to you, pay attention to their words, their tone, and their body language, and tune out distractions.
How Mindfulness Promotes Mental Health
The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends mindfulness for patients and therapists alike, citing benefits such as:
- Improved sense of well-being
- Increased calmness, clarity, and concentration
- Cognitive gains
- Better emotional regulation
- Fewer depressive and anxious symptoms
- Reduced stress
They also reported that therapists who practice mindfulness tend to be more compassionate, empathetic, and effective in the use of counseling skills, in addition to having a better quality of life.
Incorporating Mindfulness Into Treatment
Where other treatments, like medications and talk-based therapies, may only work for some patients and some diagnoses, mindfulness is a tool that works for a wide range of individuals. It is also compatible with various other treatment options, making it a wonderful alternative or addition to traditional treatment strategies.
While mindfulness works for a range of diagnoses, two that it is often used to treat are anxiety and depression:
- Anxiety – In my work as a crisis counselor, I frequently have clients who reach out because they are having anxiety. One of the tricks we try to get them back to a calmer state is a very simple mindfulness activity that tunes them into their senses. YouTube offers many mindfulness activities for anxiety, but this one is popular because it’s easy to memorize and can be done anywhere without anyone noticing.
- Depression – Mindfulness has been shown to be especially helpful in reducing depressive symptoms by helping the person guide themselves out of a loop of negative thinking while practicing compassion for themselves and accepting their depressed feelings as just ideas instead of facts.
All Ages & Abilities
An additional strength of mindfulness is that people of all ages, from children to elderly adults, can practice some type of mindfulness, even if the person has physical limitations, such as mobility concerns, chronic pain, or muscle weakness.
When it comes to mindfulness for children, it can be helpful to have adults model mindfulness and help children learn how to add the practice into their daily lives. This will make it easier for children to utilize the skills as they grow into adulthood. Because the brains of children are still developing, they may be uniquely suited to picking up and retaining practices related to mindfulness, which they can use for emotional regulation, focus, and cognitive control.
Older adults may be naturally more mindful as a result of their stage of life, and at least one study has correlated mindfulness with greater life satisfaction. Older adults may be more likely to choose to focus on the moment instead of the future and thus be more mindful; even so, completing mindfulness exercises can still benefit older adults.
We Are Here to Help
If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health issues, reach out to us for a consultation. Our robust treatment programs incorporate evidence-based practices and are catered to meet your specific needs.