Mindfulness Therapy: Beginning Your Journey
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of non-judgemental moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. People have been practicing mindfulness for thousands of years. Although mindfulness was popularized in the East by religious and spiritual institutions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, mindfulness also has roots in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Thus, mindfulness is a practice everyone can enjoy and benefit from.
Mindfulness is often thought of as synonymous with meditation, and although mindfulness is a part of meditation they are not one in the same. There are countless disciplines and practices that can cultivate mindfulness, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, however, mindfulness is a practice that can be weaved into virtually any task. Of all the types of mindfulness therapy, one of my favorites is mindful eating. It helps me slow down, enhances the flavor of my food and brings more enjoyment to meals as well as cultivating an appreciation for the earth and hard work that went into growing the ingredients and making my meal.
Mindfulness Therapy Benefits
Similar to how regular physical exercise helps our bodies feel better and function more effectively, mindfulness helps our mind stay in good shape. Research on mindfulness has identified these benefits:
- Reduce rumination
- Increase self-compassion and acceptance
- Stress reduction
- Decrease depressive symptoms
- Boosts to working memory
- Less emotional reactivity
- Increase cognitive flexibility
- Relationship satisfaction
- Improve immune functioning
- Increase information processing speed
- Enhanced morality
- Develop intuition
- Fear modulation
I know mindfulness can be scary or difficult at first, but remember mindfulness is a practice and just like anything else you practice, it takes time and repeated efforts to get comfortable and improve. I believe you can do it! Below I have provided a short mindful breathing meditation script. You can read this aloud or in your mind, or have a loved one read it to you, or get really creative and record yourself and play it back.
Mindful Breathing Meditation Script
Begin by settling into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, with your head, neck and spine aligned. Let your hands rest quietly in your lap or by your sides, palms facing up. Allow your eyes to close gently, or you may choose to keep them open with a softened gaze.
As your body settles, bring your awareness to your breathing. Allow your breath to find its own natural rhythm. Simply breathing in… and breathing out. Meet your breath with curiosity.
Is your breath shallow… or is it deep? Is the air cool or warm? Free from judgement, not trying to change the breath in any way.
Breathing in, feeling the breath as it passes through your nostrils… breathing out, feeling the breath as it leaves your nostrils. Keeping your awareness gently on your breath, breathing mindfully in the present moment. Notice each inhale as it travels down to your lungs and causes your belly to rise. And notice each exhale as your belly contracts and air moves up through the lungs back out through the nostrils.
Handling Your Thoughts
If your mind wanders to thoughts, plans or problems, that’s okay, simply notice your mind wandering. Watch the thought as it enters your awareness as neutrally as possible. Then practice letting go of the thought as if it were a leaf floating down a stream. In your mind, place each thought that arises on a leaf and watch as it floats out of sight down the stream. Then bring your attention back to your breath. Your breath is an anchor you can return to over and over again when you become distracted by thoughts.
Invite your full attention to flow with your breath. Notice how the inhale is different from the exhale. Following the breath all the way in, noticing the slight pause at the turning point as the inhale becomes the exhale and following the breath all the way out, again noticing the brief pause as the exhale becomes the inhale. Open to the magick of our body’s innate ability to know when to shift. Find comfort in the steady familiar rhythm of the breath, of your lifeforce. Breathing in… and breathing out.
As this practice comes to an end, slowly allow your attention to expand and notice your entire body. Take a moment to notice how you are feeling… how your body feels… your mind… and your spirit. I invite you to offer gratitude for this time you have taken for yourself, to breathe, connect, and bring yourself back into balance. Expand your awareness beyond your body to the room you are in and, whenever you are ready, open your eyes. In meditation and mindfulness therapy, the breath is always with you as an anchor to bring you back to the present moment.
Mindfulness Therapy Resources
With the growing popularity of mindfulness and mindfulness based therapy, there are a vast amount of wonderful resources out there to help culminate a practice that’s perfect for you.
- Mindfulness Therapy Apps
- Plum village
- Insight Timer
- Stop, Breathe & Think
- Smiling Mind
- Mindfulness Matters
- Stress Less Cards by Sunny Present
- Better Me: The Game of Growth
To learn more about mindfulness therapy, book a free consultation to talk to an expert therapist at CRIW.