How does it work, this mindfulness we hear about?
When it first became prominent for me, I explored it a little and realised it was something I did naturally with my clients anyway – focus their mind on the here and now, accepting the thoughts and feelings but finding ways to better ‘manage’ those that threaten to overwhelm – panic, stress, anger, fear, sadness.
It is therefore about being aware of your thoughts and feelings from an external point of view, rather than ‘in’ the middle of it in your mind and/or body.
Especially managing the stress response of fight or flight but it works for other ‘feelings’ too. It is to ‘think about thinking’ (see below)
Mindfulness is generally described as:
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations
The problem is probably ‘calmly’ thinking about stressful thinking and I can often see client’s doubtful when we practice what I explain to them to try, when they feel anxious.
And we can control our thoughts if we try and if we believe we can! It was new to me but like everything is at first, and when I hear about it I like to try (pragmatist!) and I could – I do! It works!
This, in line with the 5 ways to clear your mind (appropriately entitled which attracted me to it!) the options are as follows, and you can try one, then another until it works for you – and in different situations/different reasons too.
- Distraction – be mindful of the stress response going on in your body, moving down from head to toes to identify the key responses you are experiencing, in itself will tell your mind it need no longer worry as the threat is passed and as it is ‘looking’ at other things now i.e. the body responses to stress, mindfulness thinking and control, managing your (unconscious) mind!
- Mindfulness – as above, or thinking about your current environment, people watching, playing solitaire etc
- Suppression – you can tell your brain what to focus on i.e. left foot, and it will therefore have to automatically not concentrate on anything else – it can only do one thing at once! (Speaking and spelling or writing – try it!)
- Substitution – replacing your thoughts with more helpful ones – they suggest ‘putting on your rose tinted spectacles’
- Meditation – 10-15 minutes a day changes stress levels and makes you feel better all day too, and also helps sports people overcome the pain barrier which all these are tools to achieve! Meditation is not about emptying the mind (impossible unless you think of black – or empty!) but about concentrating or focussing on one thing – like sound, a tune, a feeling, an action – that absorbs your brain action. Think about your breathing, in, out, in out, feeling your body move – lungs open and close, chest rise and fall, stomach movement etc.
So really, these are ALL similar – just different perspectives or words to achieve the same things – mindfulness and distraction – one and the same? Different sides of the coin? But in any case, it offers you choice and options! Whichever you ‘get’ and can do to help yourself is fine!