Written by Jondell Lafont, LPC-Intern.
Being mindful means being aware of and accepting the present moment. Mindfulness involves bringing your complete awareness to the present moment as opposed to getting caught up in your thoughts. Even in a difficult, unpleasant, or painful experience, you can be open to it and curious about it rather than running from it or fighting with it.
One of the major questions I get from clients when first learning mindfulness is, “How is being aware and present in the moment going to help me with my problems?” Depending on your situation, mindfulness can help in a number of ways. Here is a list of a few ways that mindfulness can help:
1. Rumination: When we ruminate on the past, we worry about things that have happened that we cannot change. This rumination can lead us to get caught up in unhelpful thoughts and feelings. It takes ALL of your time and attention, and you may miss out on other, perhaps pleasurable experiences. Mindfulness helps you notice the present moment instead of staying stuck in a moment you can’t change.
2. Divided Attention: Many of us multitask as a way to get things done more quickly. However, research shows that multitasking is not effective; we usually get less done or make more mistakes. Mindfulness helps keep your attention on ONE thing. When your attention is focused on that one thing, you can enjoy it more or be more effective in the situation.
3. Controlling Attention: Mindfulness helps you take control of your mind. By controlling your attention/mind, you are able to decide what you will attend to, for how long, what you will do when your mind drifts, and how you bring it back instead of your mind controlling you.
4. Self-Regulation: Practicing mindfulness helps you recognize and attend to bodily sensations and emotions more easily. By recognizing these sensations and emotions, you will be more likely to be able to regulate them.
5. Changing Patterns: Patterns and habits occur when you are not fully aware. In order to change patterns and habits, especially unhelpful ones, you must first be aware of them. Mindfulness can help you bring awareness to these habits and patterns so that you can work on changing them.
6. Self-Trust: Mindfulness helps you pay more attention to your inner experiences, such as feelings, perceptions, judgments, and decisions. The more you are able to pay attention to these inner experiences and what they are telling you about the situation you are in, the more you are able to trust that what you are experiencing is true.
7. This too shall pass: Nothing lasts forever. Experience changes. Every moment passes by. By being mindful of each moment, there can be a decrease in painful emotions because your brain learns that “this too shall pass.”