Mindfulness and Mental Healthfinding moment-to-moment awareness
Mindfulness and Mental Health
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
~Lao Tzu, 5th Century BCE
Mindfulness is an ancient practice that seeks to deepen one’s awareness of the inner workings of the mind to create a healthy separation of the mind’s fluctuations from how we experience life. All of us are subject to experiencing life through the filter of our minds, which means that whatever way our minds choose to interpret, analyze, or judge this is how we interpret, analyze, and judge our lives. In real terms, the joy – or lack thereof – we experience is based to some degree on the inner workings of our mind.
Mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness, an objective view of one’s experience without judgment. Mindfulness can be seen more as a state of being rather than a characteristic. While it may be associated or have similarities with certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not the same.
When one begins a mindfulness practice, one quickly realizes that the mind is in a near-constant state of flux. The mind likes this, hates that, is scared of this, loves that, is turned on by this and turned off by any number of things. This can be exhausting! For example, my mind deems traffic congestion “miserable” and thus my experience of life in that moment becomes “miserable.” Mindfulness can help us separate the mind’s interpretations from our experience of life.
“Emotions and thoughts are just things that occur in our lives and do not define us or completely shape our lives.”
Mindfulness seeks to transcend the judgments of the mind so that difficult experiences don’t make our lives difficult; they just become things that happen. With practice, we can observe these difficulties with what’s called “compassionate detachment” so that they are just things our mind doesn’t like while allowing us to maintain a level of acceptance. In short, we are neither our thoughts nor our emotions. Emotions and thoughts are just things that occur in our lives and do not define us or completely shape our lives. This, of course, is not to discount the importance of thought or emotion, for they are important tools we’ve developed over thousands of years that serve a good purpose. But they are not who we are.
Mindfulness and Therapy
“Mindfulness and its attending therapies say that to feel better one needs to create a new relationship with the problem.”
Much of Western Medicine espouses that when there is a problem, this problem needs to be eradicated so a person can return to “normal.” That is, get rid of x symptom(s) and feel better. In effect escape the problem. Mindfulness and its attending therapies say that to feel better one needs to create a new relationship with the “problem.” By doing so, it becomes less of a problem or not a problem at all. To do this, one needs not to avoid the issue but go deeper into the issue. A skilled therapist can provide a safe place to do this and help a patient create tools to do this in their own life. Paradoxically, by going deeper into the “problem,” one’s perspective starts to change and whatever “problem” one has is actually just a thing that happens in life; like traffic congestion. The process of increasing awareness of emotions, thoughts, and sensations, in turn, creates more peace, happiness, and acceptance. Contact him here or call and make an appointment today.
– Peter Lear, LCSW
– Lafayette, CO
– Yoga Instruction
– Life Strategies
The opposite of mindfulness is going on autopilot, paying loose attention to what task or thing you are presently doing. Multitasking can only be so helpful and in some cases harmful. Never in the history of humans have we ever had access to so much information. We carry supercomputers (smartphones) in our pockets, after all. That our attention gets scattered is an understatement.
Yoga asanas or postures have been practiced for over 5,000 years. Yoga has continued to grow in popularity in the last 10-15 years it, particularly in the West, for many reasons. One compelling reason is that it has a significant positive effect on mood,…
Most of us do a great job maintaining our mental health functioning AND most of us have periods when we don’t do so well for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it can be a relatively easy fix. A few basic changes can have a powerful effect. When dealing with any mood or anxiety abnormalities, employ the techniques of Mental Health 101. If you don’t see a significant improvement in a couple of weeks, it may be time to see a therapist.