From self-help blogs to the nightly news to scientific studies, the practice of mindfulness has gotten a lot of recent attention. But do you know what it is, how it’s done and what the benefits are?
Dr. John Kabat-Zinn, who started the American mindfulness movement, describes mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” In short, it’s being aware of your thoughts and actions as they are happening. It can be practiced by itself or in conjunction with other meditation techniques.
Some studies have shown that practicing meditation and mindfulness methods can help people in high-stress situations and those with post-traumatic stress disorders such as military veterans. Another study revealed that prisoners in Oregon correctional facilities who practiced these techniques for four months reported significantly less perceived stress, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and dissociation than those who didn’t participate.
How It’s Done
Don’t have a lot of time? You can incorporate mindfulness techniques into everyday activities. For example, the next time you eat a meal, chew slowly, paying attention to the flavors and textures of each bite of food. When you go outside, look around, noticing the sights, sounds and smells. And when anxiety or stress arises, acknowledge these feelings and know that they’re temporary. Mindfulness can make it easier to manage negative emotions and keep them from becoming overwhelming.
It’s important to remember to take care of yourself, especially if you have experienced trauma or find yourself in the middle of a high-stress situation. And mindfulness is just one way you can do that.