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Mindfulness: The New Buzz Word

By now I am sure you have heard the term mindfulness in some capacity. It has surged into popular culture, the workplace, and the media in recent years. Although this may seem like a trend that will fade over time, Mindfulness has very deep roots. Mindful practices can be traced back to a number of different origins, but one thing has been proven true, it works! Research has shown that mindfulness practice has benefits not only to one’s mental health and well-being but their relationships and physical health as well.

So, what is it? What do we mean when we talk about mindfulness in therapy practice? There are many definitions but one that I find simple yet encompassing is this: Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to your present experience, without judgement. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. Our minds are problem-solving, probability-generating, disaster-avoiding, machines. They were built this way to help us survive, to anticipate and prepare for potential problems and to avoid harmful consequences that we have encountered before. The result of this, is that much of our mental world is spent thinking about things that have happened in the past and/or worrying about things that may happen in the future. Very little of our time is spent in the present, the here and now, what is actually in front of us. So why does this matter? Well, when we spend too much time or energy on past hurts or trying to avoid pain in the future, we miss out on our lives now and it can lead to painful disorders like depression and anxiety.

How can mindfulness help? Through a regular and focused practice of mindfulness we can begin to train our brains to focus on our present experiences and respond to what is happening in front of us rather than what we may see based on our past experiences or worries. It allows us to look at our inner world (thoughts, feelings, sensations) from a distance and to not get swept away by our emotions and thoughts. It gives us space to be able to respond rather than react to our environment. By becoming aware and present in your life you will learn how to respond more effectively to challenges and to connect to the things that are important right there in front of you.

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