Mindfulness and How It Can Help You
Author: Jennifer Keenan
11th Nov 2013
Mindfulness and How It Can Help You
Ever been in a position where you just can't turn your mind off? You're exhausted, want to sleep and yet just can't get your mind to switch off for your thoughts to stop racing? You change positions, you try to focus on getting to sleep but you continue to toss and turn.
One thought leads to another, you feel your stress levels rise and before you know it it's morning and you're exhausted from another poor attempt at a night's sleep. You're exhausted, angry and frustrated.
The next day is no better. You find yourself lacking lustre, you can't keep your eyes open and you can’t concentrate. You just feel out of sorts and not quite with it. Everyone's road to mindfulness will be different, just as no two people's path in life will be the same.
Developing a Skill
Cultivating mindfulness and the benefits that come with it will be the same. The challenge for each of us is to discover who we are and to live our true purpose. Mindfulness is a counselling approach for tackling anxiety, stress, depression and exhaustion.
Once obtained, it is a skill that will help you cope more skilfully with the difficulties life can throw at you. The continued practice of mindfulness can help the perfectly normal feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness from going into a downward spiral into prolonged periods of unhappiness and exhaustion, where the worst case scenario can result in clinical depression.
A typical meditation revolves around breathing in and out, focusing your full attention on your breath coming in and out. Bringing your attention to your breath in this way allows you to be aware of your thoughts as they arise, to enable you to stop struggling with them, to begin to realise that your thoughts come and go, that you are not your thoughts, that you have a choice in what you think.
The Flow of Thoughts
You can be mindful as your thoughts appear and watch them disappear from your mind too. Eventually you can reach an understanding that your thoughts and emotions are transient. They are not set in stone and ultimately you have a choice as to whether you engage with them or not.
Being mindful is about increasing your observation of yourself without judgement or criticism. When stressors or criticism arise, you can acknowledge them and be aware of them without letting them impact on your too severely. Rather, you watch as they move past you.
At the core of counselling with mindfulness is the skill of catching negative thoughts or patterns of thought before they impacts you to the point where they bring you into a downward spiral, leading to low mood at best and at worst depression. By engaging with the process of mindfulness, it puts you back in control of your emotions and your life.
More than an Idea
The research backs this up. Practised in the long-term, mindfulness brings long-term changes to mood levels of happiness and overall well-being. Practising mindfulness can also help you manage negative emotions but also limit their impact on subsequent occasions.
Longer term effects can include fewer visits to the GP, fewer days in hospital, increased memory creativity and increased reaction times. Mindfulness is growing in popularity although some remain sceptical.
A great aspect of mindfulness is that it can be done anywhere, whatever you are doing - on the bus or train, in traffic travelling to work. Meditation can be done anywhere. It also doesn't have to take a lot of time although it will take a level of commitment, persistence and practice.
Learning from Mindfulness
Even in the early stages of practice, you will learn something from every session. Mindfulness meditation is not about accepting the unacceptable, but rather to allow yourself more clarity so that you can take wiser, more considered decisions.
Meditation helps you, with practice, to cultivate a deep self-compassion and self-awareness that allows you to assess a situation and to decide on a course of action. Initial steps with mindfulness meditation can be as simple as some quick mindful breathing techniques.
They can be done anywhere but until established, it will probably be best to practice at home in a quiet spot. Mindfulness meditation helps you to break some of the unconscious habits of thinking and living that prevent us from living a truly fulfilling life.
Jennifer Keenan is a Dublin based psychotherapist who deals with a wide range of issues including stress, depression and anxiety.
To get in touch with her you can visit her Dublin Holistic Centre counselling and psychotherapy page or visit the Jennifer Keenan Counselling & Psychotherapy website.