Mindfulness is a modern reworking of ancient meditation traditions, principally Buddhist. It is designed to help you deal with day to day difficulties by putting you in control of your own mind.
In difficult situations such as when a loved one is very ill or we are approaching an anxiety provoking situation (e.g. an exam) or someone gets us angry, we may experience very strong emotions. Sometimes these emotions overwhelm us for a short or long time. Unhelpful thoughts may accompany these emotions such as “I’ll never get over this” or “I must be stupid if I’m so scared of this exam”. Such thoughts are often believed uncritical and tend to perpetuate strong emotions that control of our thoughts and feelings.
The aim of mindfulness therapy is to help you learn to be aware of your thoughts and bodily sensations and in so doing be able to better cope with day to day emotions and problems.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Your mind is like any other part of your being, there are benefits from understanding how it works and you can train it to work better. Specifically a mindfulness practice has the following benefits:
- Stability of mind – maintaining your mind in an alert clear space rather than at the two extremes of a dull or agitated mind.
- Flexibility of mind – the ability to shift your mind to whatever object you choose, rather than having it bounce haphazardly between a number of issues
- Self awareness – being aware of the contents of your mind and understanding the typical patterns of your mind
- Acting rather than reacting – Becoming less reactive, e.g. when you are angry and choosing how you will act.
Like any other form of therapy real change requires consistency in maintain the practice on a daily basis.
How does it work?
While most of what we achieve is by “doing”, mindfulness achieves its ends by observing. It seems to achieve its success by allowing us to see our thoughts and emotions as just thoughts and emotions not something to rule our lives or believe. Thoughts like “I am not good enough” are subtle and we generally believe them. By being mindful of our thoughts we gradually get the idea that they are just thoughts that we are having and there is no need to believe them. Similarly with a feeling like “anger” we start to realize that it is a feeling that is currently strong within us but no more than that, we currently have anger, but it isn’t who we really are. We stop identifying with the thoughts and emotions. Our mind ceases to be in the control of strong feelings and thoughts and slowly comes under our own control.
I have thoughts but I am not my thoughts.
I have bodily sensations but I am not my bodily sensations.
I have emotions but I am not my emotions