What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness refers to the focusing of attention and awareness on the present. It is based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation which since the 1970’s has been incorporated into a number of therapeutic applications within modern Psychology. Although the roots of mindfulness come from Buddhism, it is not inherently religious; rather it helps you become more aware of the present moment by developing awareness around emotional, cognitive and physical sensations. Research suggests that mindfulness practices are useful in the treatment and management of pain, stress, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, anger management and addiction.
Mindfulness is not positive thinking.
Mindfulness is not about having only good feelings. It does not help us to get rid of unwanted feelings, but to actually feel them. That is why it is often said that mindfulness is not for the fainthearted, and that it can be stressful to do an MBSR course! Our usual reaction to uncomfortable or distressing feelings is to push them away and try to get rid of them. With mindfulness we learn to turn towards the difficulties, challenges and pain in our lives, because they are here anyway, with an attitude of allowing and kindness.
This is a gentle process, not a forceful one, and it happens gradually as we build emotional strength and resilience. Resistance and avoidance require a lot of energy and when we learn to soften them a little and actually allow ourselves to be as we are, and our experience to be as it is, we find that we free up a lot of energy which can now go into seeing more clearly, making wiser choices and taking wiser action.
Mindfulness is not relaxation.
Becoming more relaxed may be a welcome by-product of mindfulness practice, but it is not the aim. As we develop mindfulness we begin to see our lives, our behaviours and relationships more clearly and this is not always easy. That is why the attitude we bring to the practice is one of kindness, patience and self-compassion.
For further reading, a very interesting article appeared on the Huffington Post recently that discussed 11 common misconceptions of Mindfulness Meditation.
We in Midlands Mental Health offer Courses in Mindfulness.