Mindfulness: Improving our psychological well-being
Is it a craze or here to stay?
We tend to hear a lot about ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’, but why? The truth is, it is not a new concept. The practice of mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist Philosophy and a practice existing for over 2,000 years.
Studies have shown that increased mindfulness and mindfulness based meditation improve our overall well-being, including relationship benefits, and enhance physical and mental health. Mindfulness can increase our cognitive awareness, increase working memory, and help us to more effectively manage our emotions. In conjunction with improved cognitive health, mindfulness or mindfulness based meditation helps to reduce worry, anxiety, while improving our ability to get good sleep. Elements of mindfulness meditation such as awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of our experience, are regarded as potentially effective antidotes against common forms of psychological distress. When we experience psychological distress such as rumination, fear, or anger it may increase maladaptive tendencies to avoid, suppress, or over engage with one’s distress thoughts and emotions (Keung et. al., 2011).
How to start your practice
Mindfulness is the “awareness that arises through paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (Keung et al., 2011). Sounds straightforward right? The concept of mindfulness may appear to be somewhat simple, however as we explore integrating the practice of mindfulness into our daily lives let’s be honest, it isn’t easy. In a world of multi-tasking, expectations, roles and responsibilities the number one thing I hear from people is ‘I don’t have time’. And I would say for many that may be true, however, finding an effective and meaningful way to begin integrating mindfulness into everyday activities will reap both physical and mental benefits.
Ways to begin your mindfulness practices;
- Start small, beginning your practice doesn’t mean starting with 45 minutes mediations. It’s about exploring your everyday activities and challenging yourself to be present in those moments, practicing acceptance and without judgment.
- Use daily activities to begin a mindfulness practice. This could include while brushing your teeth, having that first cup of coffee, getting dressed, or having a meal. These are activities we often just ‘do.’ Instead challenge yourself to engage mindfully in one of these activities each day even if it’s only for a few minutes.
- Mindfulness apps! In a world of technology you can use this to your benefit. There are some cost effective and free apps to help support daily mindfulness practices. These apps provided specific and guided meditations to help reduce anxiety, stress or even support a more restful sleep. These types of tools can also help you track your consistency and progress in your mindfulness practice. Some of these include Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer.
- Have fun!! Mindfulness doesn’t have to be serious. Be creative, and curious in your practice! Experience daily activities with a different perspective and mindset, it’s amazing what we miss in the world every day.
Integrating mindfulness meditation into your daily life can reduce mental and physical stress, improve mood and sharpen your ability to concentrate. While it will require some dedication and perseverance to carve out time for your mindfulness practice, setting realistic goals and expectations will contribute to your success. Mindfulness meditation is one part of a holistic approach to your overall wellbeing and a helpful extension to your counselling experience.
King S.L., Smoski M.J., & Robins C.J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21802619.
Kaitlyn’s primary experience has been working with adults and couples, who are navigating varying challenges related to mental health and wellness. Her work has included supporting individuals/couples who have experiences of childhood and adult trauma, and support for those experiencing mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders and eating disorders.