25 Jun #BeMindful – Open (to) Your Present
Briefly, mindfulness is the process of observing what is taking place in the here and now. Our attention and awareness tend to take us far away from the present moment into the past and future. Let’s now dive into the origin and benefits of a mindfulness as well as its value when we’re trying to manage racing thoughts.
The origin of mindfulness stems from ancient Buddhist philosophy from over 2,000 years ago; however, it has been popularized in western culture only in the last 30 years. It is important to note that mindfulness practice is non-sectarian, in that there are no religious belief systems attached to the process of “present awareness.” In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn created the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School where he has since supported thousands of people through trainings in mindfulness. These teachings have spread into the evidenced based clinical practices used by psychologists worldwide.
Being Present in a Fast Paced World
There are a number of benefits to practicing mindfulness. Research has found that mindfulness improves a number of psychological conditions including depression and anxiety as well as shown to reduce pain, cardiovascular disease, and other medical conditions. People practicing mindfulness have improved quality of life and interpersonal relationships. High level performers including professional athletes are also using mindfulness to help them focus and stay in the moment. A mindful practice can also help increase task performance. It can help reduce feelings of burnout, improve leadership skills, and increase self-awareness.
Try this little experiment: I want you to NOT think of a cat dressed like a pirate. Thats right…I’m being 100% serious. Spend the next 15 seconds intentionally trying not thinking of a cat dressed like a pirate. Go ahead…I’ll wait. (…insert spinning wheel of death).
What happened? If you are like 95% of the world it was impossible. At some point during the 15 seconds your mind went back to the cat dressed as a pirate. And if you happen to be part of the 5% who may have found a way to distract yourself enough, that process is typically not sustainable and your brain would eventually return to the cat. Why does this happen? Turns out it is not just because a cat dressed like a pirate is an amazing mental image, but also because efforts attempting to push away thoughts (and images in our mind) actually gets us more stuck!
Mindfulness can certainly help you change this cycle. Instead of trying to “not have thoughts” (we saw how that goes), you can develop a welcoming stance that promotes acceptance and acknowledgement. This can be particularly useful at times when feeling anxious or stressed and thoughts are racing. Curious and nonjudgmental awareness and acceptance tends to slow the entire process down.
Come to Crossover Health for a “50-Minute Monthly Mindfulness Class” to learn more about the exercises that can help you use mindfulness in a positive way. You can register at gocrossoverhealth.com.The next blog post will include the difference between formal and informal mindfulness and will provide a number of in-home (or office) mindfulness exercises you can try for yourself.