Mindfulness is a really hot topic right now. You can’t go anywhere in the real world or online without someone using this buzz word.
But what is mindfulness, in its essence, and why is it so important for well-being, mental health, and effective therapy?
At its core, mindfulness is a simply paying attention in a curious, non-judgmental way to the way that things are, both within us around us. A mindful form of attention does not come from a place of judgement about the way things should be, but instead stays firmly rooted in noticing how things actually are in this moment.
So that is what mindfulness is.
But why is developing the ability to pay attention in this particular way so helpful? There is a huge list of reasons that this is the case, but I will list what I believe to be three of the most important reasons, as they relate to therapy.
1) Mindful awareness, because it is anchored in the present moment, offers a very effective antidote to anxiety and depression. Anxiety is all about moving into the future, into terrible things that almost never happen. Depression is a lot about ruminating on the past, fixating on our past failures and rejections, playing these images over and over again in our minds. Mindfulness, because it returns our awareness to the present moment, wakes us up from our mental time travel to the past or future, and it therefore offers a natural relief from the suffering of anxiety and depression.
2) We always experience the world of our senses in the present moment. Therefore, cultivating a mindful form of attention tends to make our sensual experiences richer, more engrossing, and more interesting. This helps to add richness and texture to our lives.
3) Lastly, and most perhaps importantly for experiential therapy, we always experience our bodies and therefore our emotions in the present. This means that developing mindful awareness greatly deepens our abilities to fully experience, understand, express, and regulate our emotions. These are invaluable skills in general, but especially helpful for the progress of therapy.
In other posts I will talk in more detail about mindfulness, how it is useful in therapy, and some ways you can help yourself to develop it.