Hello again, folks. I'm really looking forward to geeking out with you on various therapy-related topics in 2016 - and today I want to talk about mindfulness. Mindfulness is a very trendy topic right now and many of you may have already of it. If you haven't, or you're still unclear what it exactly is, I recommend giving this blog a quick read about mindful breathing.
Mindfulness is all about bringing your brain to the present. The idea being - when we are depressed, anxious, etc., we are somewhere else rather than the present moment. For depression, we are dwelling on the past (e.g. guilt, regret). For anxiety, we are fixated on threats to our future (e.g. worry, hypervigilance). Mindfulness teaches us that being in the here-and-now can clear those stressful thoughts and increase relaxation, focus, and even productivity in the workplace.
I encourage you to Google more info - but if you do - you may find it difficult to find instructions on specific skills. Everyone talks about the benefits of mindfulness, but the skills themselves are often left to mystery.
To remedy that problem, I'd like to throw back the curtain on one of my favorite techniques. It consists of three easy steps and you can see benefits within minutes.
- Close your eyes.
- Take three slow breaths. Take air in through your nose and out through your mouth. Hold each breath for 3 Mississippi's.
- Using all 4 of your remaining senses (eyes are still closed), take a mental inventory of every sensation you are experiencing. Think in full sentences.
- You can cover the easy ones first (e.g. "I hear the clock ticking. I hear the traffic outside."), but the real fun comes when you begin noticing your body, breaths, and other internal sensations (e.g. "I feel my heart beating").
- Notice everything. When you believe you've reached as much as you can detect, challenge yourself to find one more sensation - and then one more, and then one more.
The purpose of this technique is to push out stressful, non-present thoughts, with neutral thoughts of the present. You'll notice that it's hard to think stressful thoughts when you are so acutely aware of what's going on right around you. You should feel more relaxed and some may even feel a little weird. Don't worry, that's a good thing. It means that it's working!