Does Mindfulness Really Work?
Do you ever feel like you can’t hear your own thoughts over the rest of the noise in your head? Do you ever feel paralyzed by stress or indecision? When your brain is so loud you can’t hear yourself think, it can be hard to focus on anything. When that happens, mindfulness can come in handy! Mindfulness is a pretty buzzy word, especially in mental health and wellness spaces, so you’ve probably heard it mentioned before.
The basic idea of mindfulness is to focus on the present moment. According to PsychCentral, the act of mindfulness is “paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, nonjudgmentally.” The keys to mindfulness are awareness and acceptance. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of what’s going on in our own inner world. The other key part of mindfulness is acceptance – do your best to shut down any judgment of what’s coming up for you.
So, does mindfulness really work?
Yes! Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the best way to fit mindfulness into your life. Mindfulness is a tool you can use to practice self-care, regulate your emotions, increase your creativity, and improve your productivity.
Anyone can practice mindfulness and there are infinite ways to practice. Some folks find they’re most mindful when they sit in stillness and silence, while others find that triggering or uncomfortable and practice mindfulness while running or gardening. Some people prefer to guide themselves, while others find more success with guided mindfulness or meditation sessions.
The crucial aspect is to find a way that works for you that you can keep up in a long term way. If you hate sitting still for long periods, sitting quietly on a cushion might not be the best way for you to practice mindfulness. Set yourself up for success by finding a way to practice mindfulness that feels doable on a daily basis.
How does mindfulness work?
Mindfulness is pretty much an exercise for your brain. Many of us know that regularly moving our bodies is an act of self-care, and you can look at mindfulness the same way. Mindfulness is self-care for your brain. One of the great things about mindfulness is that it teaches us to be present in our own lives. We often turn to distractions over stillness because we haven’t practiced being still before. When you build up a mindfulness habit, just a little at a time, you teach yourself how to focus on the present moment.
Practicing mindfulness regularly can help improve your ability to focus. It can help with managing stress and anxiety by moving your focus off of future worries and toward the present moment. Mindfulness can also give you the tools to be a better listener and communicator.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Mindfulness comes with benefits, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Some of them are:
- lower stress
- fewer depressive symptoms
- lower blood pressure
- more curiosity
- more creativity
- better problem-solving skills
- better cardiovascular health
- more successful emotional regulation
- better academic performance
- lower risk for burnout
- less chronic pain
- better sleep
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but you get the idea – mindfulness is a great tool to have in your back pocket. The best part about mindfulness is that anyone can do it. A lot of us don’t realize that mindfulness is something we are capable of, or we don’t know that we can improve with practice. The culture we live in is obsessed with business, productivity, and multitasking, so mindfulness is often the furthest thing from our minds.
If you struggle with mindfulness, don’t beat yourself up – this stuff is hard! If you’ve ever tried to avoid thinking about something, you know how much your brain naturally keeps ending up there. Learning how to tune in and focus on the present takes a TON of practice. It’s okay to have thoughts and feelings pop up while you’re being mindful – you can acknowledge them and move on. The most important thing is to keep trying until you find a way that works for you. The more you try, the easier it will be to slip into a mindful state. If you’re looking for ways to practice mindfulness that are specific to you, our counselors can help you develop your own mindfulness practice.
-Brice N. Sanner, LMFT