Mastering Mindfulness for Mental Wellness
by Jodie Solberg, CHT, CPRT
The definition of mindfulness is 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. Mindfulness is simply awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, without judgement. It’s being present in THIS moment, and not focusing on the past, or future.
There are several mental and physical advantages to practicing mindfulness. It helps boost your immune system, reduces stress, improves sleep, fights depression and prevents relapses. It also strengthens the brain’s centers for learning, memory, emotional regulation, compassion and empathy, attention and decision making. People who are mindful show more compassion toward themselves and others, have a greater ability to tune out distractions, possess stronger self-esteem, and live in line with their core values. They also have better bounce-back ability when faced with criticism. There is even evidence that practicing mindfulness can help sufferers of PTSD from things like war and abuse. With so many amazing benefits, why isn’t everyone doing it? Honestly, it’s because not everyone knows how to build the skill of mindfulness.
There are many ways to develop mindfulness and practice it in your life. In my practice as a Mental Wellness Coach and Certified Hypnotherapist, I teach my clients several techniques that they can use to practice mindfulness. One is to do a progressive relaxation, where they focus on relaxing just one body part at a time. You can start with your toes, then your feet, your ankles, and calves, knees, thighs, torso, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. Move your awareness slowly through each body part, focusing a few seconds on each. Another technique is to be mindful of your breathing. Just take a few minutes to truly focus your attention on your breath as it flows in and out, making sure to exhale twice as long as you inhale. This is especially helpful whenever you are feeling anxiety, or other intense emotions. A third technique I like to use with my clients is being mindful of their surroundings. There is a technique in coping with anxiety and panic attacks called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. First, find 5 things in your immediate surroundings you can see. Next, find 4 things you can physically touch. Then, find 3 things you can hear. Just close your eyes and notice everything around you-the birds outside the window, the cars driving by, the sound of the air coming through the vents, the buzzing of the refrigerator. All the little details that our conscious mind usually tunes out. After that, find 2 things you can smell. Perhaps it’s the products in your hair, or the soap or deodorant you use on your skin. If you can’t smell anything immediately, grab a candle, lotion, or spices from the kitchen. And last, find one thing nearby you can taste, even if it’s just a drink of water.
Mindfulness allows you to be in the present moment and aware of your thoughts. It gives you an awareness that your thoughts and emotions do not define who you are, which is especially helpful when breaking free of negative thought patterns. Interrupting those patterns will help you to disrupt negative habits and create new healthy ones. I also provide my clients with a special guided meditation they can use between sessions with me and beyond to help strengthen their mindfulness and practice these skills, which I recommend doing every day to build the habit. So find a guided meditation that you enjoy, and utilize it to build the muscle of mindfulness.
Whichever of these techniques you choose to use, pick one to focus on this week and decide when you will practice it. Perhaps it will be first thing in the morning, or right before bed at night. Or you may decide to take a mindfulness break in the middle of your day to keep yourself emotionally centered. Whatever it is, it’s sure to benefit you in countless ways. Just remember that the more you practice, the more that muscle gets developed in your brain. So stay consistent in order to reap the rewards of mindfulness in your life!
Jodie Solberg is a Mental Wellness Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist and creator of The Emotional Empowerment Project. She has been working therapeutically since 2000, and as a business coach since 2006. Jodie’s background working with multiple populations such as teens, parents, addicts and female entrepreneurs, gives her a unique perspective to help her clients overcome limiting beliefs, break through blocks to progress, and heal past hurts so they can discover their purpose and achieve greater success in all areas of their life. If you would like more information about Jodie and her programs, please visit www.psychedupsuccess.com
Thank you, Jodie, for such a thoughtful and timely piece! Readers are offered to use code SPRING10 to purchase Yogalastics to help with your own mindfulness and mental wellness.