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What is “Mindfulness”?

We’ve all heard it before: be mindful!  Sure, sounds easy enough.  But, what exactly does being “mindful” mean?

Mindfulness can have broad definitions, but in psychotherapy, it is often defined as a psychological state of awareness of our own experiences.  It is an important staple in many different types of therapy, including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  The key point to remember when it comes to being mindful is that your thoughts and emotions are not fixed, they are free-flowing, and they come and go.  Why is this helpful to note?  Well, when we experience so-called “negative” emotions, such as anger, frustration, or irritation, it can be easy to over-identify with the feeling.  Some of us can easily spiral into thinking we actually are that thought, feeling, or emotion.  Self-deprecating forms of thinking can also be triggered, i.e. “I’m mad at my boss, so this must mean I’m an angry person,” or, “I’m irritated with my spouse, so I must be a cranky person.”  Sure, you might feel upset and angry, which is okay!  However, experiencing negative emotions does not necessarily translate into your being an “upset” person overall, or an “angry” person at your core.  Emotions are free-flowing, they come and go, and they pass, both positive ones and the negative ones.  Of course, negative emotions can understandably be tough to cope with, but it’s important to remember that there is validity to your feelings, and you’re feeling the way you do for a reason.  Just like there is a range of colors in a rainbow, there is a range of emotions we experience in our lives.  Remaining mindful of your current emotion, and understanding your triggers and responses to that emotion, can help you find your own equilibrium.  In therapy, it can be really helpful to identify these patterns in your own unique situation.  So, how do you remain mindful?  Here are some quick starter tips to keep in mind:

  1. Observe Your Emotion
  2. Experience Your Emotion
  3. Don’t Over-Identify With Your Emotion
  4. Engage in Appreciating, Owning, and Respecting How You Feel

How can practicing mindfulness be helpful for you?  Research points to a lot of advantages, such as stress reduction, improved memory, reduced emotional reactivity, increased focus, relationship satisfaction, and physical health benefits.  Meditation and yoga have become increasingly popular forms of mindfulness-based activities and exercises that can help you hone in on promoting overall well-being.

Questions or comments?  Reach out, I’m here to help!

 

 

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