In the last few years, mindfulness has become a buzzword there has been thrown around in the mental health and spiritual communities. At some point in your life, you might have found yourself questioning or even doing a Google search to see what exactly mindfulness is and its benefits are. Rest assured, mindfulness is not just a fad; there are actual benefits to using mindfulness. It can seamlessly be incorporated into your daily life and positively affect your mental health to help you have a happier, healthier, and more positive outlook on experiences or situations that can be viewed as negative.
My own experience with mindfulness has positively impacted my mental health. In late February 2018, I discovered that my chronic illness formally known as TA (Takayasu’s arteritis) had reared its head and was no longer in remission. It needed to be treated aggressively. I had two choices. Option A: wallow in self-pity, allow my mental health to further deteriorate, be filled with days and nights of anxiety and depression. Or option B: proverbially put on my big girl pants and deal with it by adding a dose of mindfulness to my daily life. After a few weeks of option A, I decided enough was enough, and I took control of my mental health by incorporating mindfulness into my daily regimen.
Mindfulness is a sure way to improve your mental health. In this blog you will learn what mindfulness is, how it is beneficial to your mental health, and how easy it is to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.
What is mindfulness?
So what exactly is mindfulness? John Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic, describes it as “awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” in his book Mindfulness for Beginners. In essence, mindfulness is taking in everything you experience and being in the present moment - dealing with thoughts, feelings, emotions without attaching a negative emotion or judgment to it.
Andy Puddicombe expresses in the book The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness that “mindfulness means to be present, in the moment, and undistracted.” When you are present, in the moment, and undistracted you are able to give whatever you are doing or experiencing your undivided attention. This entails not multitasking, avoiding feelings, or being focused on past or future worries.
During my struggles with my chronic illness, I had the choice to distract myself with the work, focus on the negative aspects of my health, or avoid the issues altogether. But, I ultimately chose to be mindful about my health and focused on activities that brought mental peace, the positive aspects of my health, and getting well.
How is mindfulness beneficial to positive mental health?
Overall, society has a negative perception of dealing with mental health, specifically anxiety and depression, both of which are negative factors that alter your overall health. In conjunction with other systemic issues, when left untreated they can cause great mental distress.
There have been a number of studies conducted on how mindfulness and interventions that center around mindfulness positively improve one’s mental health. Specifically, participants of mindfulness-based interventions had lower pre-and post-markers of anxiety, depression, and stress (Ferszt, Miller, Hickey, Maull, & Crisp, 2015). Additionally, participants of programs centered around mindfulness learn skills that help them cope with negative thinking patterns, thus lowering their stress and reducing their anxieties (McCay, et al., 2016).
My health challenges did not magically disappear when I began to incorporate mindfulness, but I was better able to internalize and accept what doctors had to say, make informed decisions, and the anxiety and depression that stemmed from the uproar of TA subsided tremendously.
Ways to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life:
Mindful eating – eat quietly without distraction of devices, focused on the chewing and eating.
Mindful movement – Take a quiet walk during your lunch break not using music or talking as a distraction. During the walk observe the trees, flowers, colors, and smells.
Meditation –to quiet the mind, to plan what you want to accomplish or receive for the day, or at the end of the day to process the day and prepare for rest. Use affirmations, meditation apps, or positive self-talk to help you.
Awareness of breath – deep breathing helps keep you in the rest-and-digest state where your body is able to process and run smoothly and away from the stressful emotions of the flight-or-fight response.
Journaling – Journaling can give you the freedom to express yourself about an upsetting experience. Journaling allows your creativity to flow and is a proven way to boost your mood. It also lets you create a narrative about your thoughts without becoming overcome with emotion.
There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. Don’t just take our word for it. Find the best ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life that work for your life and schedule. At Mindful Ways to Wellness, we offer an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course that will help you learn additional techniques to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. The upcoming course will run from September 11th through October 30th, 2019, with weekly classes held Wednesday evenings. To learn more about mindfulness and the MBSR program, join us for one of our free information sessions being held in August. Please visit www.mindfulwaystowellness.com/workshops to sign up for the session that works best for your schedule.
Mindful Ways to Wellness also offers a weekly Mindful Tibetan Bowl Meditation on Monday nights that is the perfect way to get an introduction to the healing sounds of our authentic Himalayan singing bowls and easily incorporate mindfulness into your week. We hope you’ll join us here at our location in downtown St. Petersburg and enjoy the mental health benefits of mindfulness as part of your everyday life.
Chi, X., Bo, A., Liu, T., Zhang, P., & Chi, I. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Depression in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology,9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01034
Ferszt, G., Miller, R., Hickey, J., Maull, F., & Crisp, K. (2015). The Impact of a Mindfulness Based Program on Perceived Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Sleep of Incarcerated Women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,12(9), 11594-11607. doi:10.3390/ijerph120911594
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming the present moment and your life. Boulder: Sounds True.
McCay, E., Frankford, R., Beanlands, H., Sidani, S., Gucciardi, E., Blidner, R., Aiello, A. (2016). Evaluation of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy to Reduce Psychological Distress and to Promote Well-Being. SAGE Open,6(3), 215824401666954. doi:10.1177/2158244016669547
Nemati, E., Habibi, M., Vargahan, F. A., Mohamadloo, S. S., & Ghanbari, S. (2017). The role of mindfulness and spiritual intelligence in students mental health. Journal of Research and Health,7(1), 594-602. doi:10.18869/acadpub.jrh.7.1.594
Puddicombe, A. (2016). The headspace guide to meditation and mindfulness: How mindfulness can change your life in ten minutes a day. New York: St. Martins Griffin.