Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Before we begin to discuss how we can make mindfulness work for us and the ways in which it can benefit our mental health, it’s important to understand what the word actually means. Here is a definition of mindfulness.
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
When I was going through Recovery Skills Therapy (RST) mindfulness was the main focus of the course. We were taught how to focus our minds onto the present, allowing ourselves to think about things but acknowledge those thoughts for just that, thoughts. We were told to acknowledge them as being there but to quickly bring our mind back onto the task at hand. An easy way of explaining this technique is fully immersing yourself in a task.
An example of some of the tasks we would do during the therapy would be colouring and drawing, creative writing, meditation and eating sweets. Some of these may seem like pretty minor tasks to be immersing yourself in, but it’s the principle of mindfulness that matters here. It’s gaining the ability to block out distractions and only think about what you are doing at that present moment. It’s the ability to live for the now rather than dwell constantly on the past.
In order to make mindfulness work you need to practice and then practice some more. It sounds easy, but allowing thoughts and distractions external to the task at hand just pass you by is much more difficult than you’d imagine. It’s particularly difficult when you’re dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, thinking about past thoughts and the like is almost a way of life for us. But with practice you can begin to develop the skill and can begin to feel increasing benefits from it. Benefits of this technique include greater focus on the present moment and I found that it helped to relieve my anxiety.
I’ve begun to intertwine mindfulness into my daily life, taking moments to myself to focus on breathing techniques as well as completely immersing myself in tasks. I find it easier to focus on a task such as work when I have my headphones on and can block out distractions with soothing music. Whilst this may work for some people, it’s important to not allow the music to distract from the task. That’s a further skill I’ve began to develop and I’ve found that the music can increase my mindfulness even more.
On the whole, to make mindfulness work for you it’s very important to practice and keep practicing it. It’s important to acknowledge any thoughts that may come into your mind whilst being mindful but not allowing yourself to be distracted by them by dwelling on those thoughts. Let thoughts just calmly flow into one part of your mind and back out of the other.