You might have heard of mindfulness because now so many people talking about it. Many years ago when I started running therapy courses based upon mindfulness very few people knew what it was.
Practice of mindfulness aims to improve the quality of life of people in very specific terms and demonstrably, leaving aside and without entering into philosophies, beliefs and personal religions.
Although it has its origins in Buddhism, it was introduced into healthcare in the 1980’s in the US by Jon Kabat Zinn. He then published a book about this work entitled, “Full Catastrophe Living”.
So what is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness in its purest form is a whole way of being. It entails acceptance of the world and experience just as it is, because it is as it is. It is about being within the world just as you are. It means living with awareness in the here and now because now is the only part that is relevant.
Mindfulness doesn’t involve struggle – to be better or different. It means just being who you are, here and now, in each moment as it comes.
Sounds lovely but don’t see how I can do that. ! Don’t think the boss would like it for one!
Of course. The great thing about mindfulness is that you don’t have to become a Buddhist monk in order to use it. There are many aspects of mindfulness which can be adapted and used easily and beneficially in everyday life as we know it.
We seem to feel obligated to feel happy and motivated in our welfare society. Along with well-known money, positivism and “motivationalism”, are the new gods. It is easy to confuse being well with feeling comfortable. The key to peace is to know yourself to the core. This includes learning to accept and feel emotions like sadness and anger. . Using a tool of self-knowledge to end up rejecting myself for feeling something in particular makes no sense.
Read also: 13 Destructive Habits That Cause Anxiety
How does it work as a therapy?
Various psychological therapies were developed using mindfulness as a base notably Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Therapies utilizing the principles of mindfulness are often referred to as “Third Wave CBT”. The main difference between these and traditional CBT is that, whereas CBT requires patients to “challenge” their unwanted thoughts and feelings, mindfulness teaches acceptance of what is. This means that instead of struggling to change it and, in doing so, focus even more energy on the unwanted, mindfulness teaches ways of focusing attention on more positive thoughts and feelings instead.
Mindfulness is a practice that allows a person to feel a close connection with himself, his body, mind, and emotions.. That is why it becomes an essential practice if you want to properly manage your thoughts and emotions. However, mindfulness does not provide a cure, but it would help manage the associated distress and physical disability.
But if I don’t try and stop them, they will overwhelm me!
Ironically in most cases this won’t happen. We tend to assume it will because we have been taught that physical problems shouldn’t be ignored or they might develop into something much worse and even fatal.
But the nature of psychological problems is very different. The vast majority get better if you take less notice of them and devote the energy you had been putting into struggle into something more enjoyable. (NB I am not referring to serious mental illness here)
Read also: 14 Great Tips to Feel More In Control
Sounds too good to be true!
It’s not magic. You still have to put it into practice and that takes time and persistence BUT…
Whereas many of the things we want to achieve require effort and often a degree of self-denial e.g.
Losing weight often means doing exercise we don’t feel naturally inclined towards and not eating lots of the things we enjoy the most.
Gaining qualifications means spending time studying, sometimes studying bits we don’t really find easy, and not always just doing what we feel like doing.
Keeping New Year Resolutions means changing the behaviors which obviously come naturally and easily in order to be a better person of some kind.
Mindfulness as an approach to overcoming psychological problems actually involves learning to do more of what feels good! No wonder it’s now catching on BIG TIME!
When I overcame my own acute anxiety state, I didn’t know the first thing about mindfulness. Nevertheless I carefully studied what did and didn’t work for my own difficulties. It was only in 2015 when I read Jon Kabat Zinn’s book that I realized I had instinctively used a form of mindfulness to sort myself out. Since then I have always used this approach in my professional life as a psychologist.