It seems like you can’t threaten to have a nervous breakdown anymore without someone popping up and suggesting you try mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been called the most important psychological development of the millennium, with psychologists attesting to its effectiveness in ameliorating anxiety, depression, PTSD and chronic pain. But how do you do it? Even experienced therapy-goers find the concept a bit amorphous: Googling “mindfulness” brings up 27 million results, and some of them might not be legit and —
Relax. Just concentrate on reading and absorbing this piece.
That, in a nutshell, is mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, in which you attempt to change your mood by changing your thoughts. It’s also referred to as a type of meditation and has roots in Buddhism. The modern process was developed around 1979 by a California academic.
“There are two key ingredients that form the foundation of all mindfulness-based approaches: awareness and acceptance,” writes psychology professor Gregg Henriques, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. Basically, to practice mindfulness, you concentrate on what you’re doing in the present moment — sitting on a couch, gazing out a window, staring at your shoe — and focus on that down to the smallest detail: How the couch cushion feels beneath your hand, the color of a bird outside, the texture of your shoelace. You concentrate on your breath, and if your mind wanders, you just return to breathing.
Then you let your thoughts flow naturally from there, experiencing them without judging them, “without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment,” says the Greater Good Center of the University of California-Berkeley. “When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”
Practicing this can help you learn to focus and quiet an anxious mind and accept the world as it is and as it comes. Says Henriques: “Mindfulness practices teach individuals to learn to observe and accept the streams of thought and experience that run through their mind.”