The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.

A Modern Take on Mindfulness


Mindfulness is defined as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary. It may be something you’ve heard about or a concept that is very foreign to you. Either way, the push for mindfulness practice seems to be here to stay and is supported by empirical research to reduce stress, worry, anxiety, depression, and other problems. In this blog article, I will set out to describe where mindfulness gets its roots and how to implement it in today’s world.

Let’s start by looking at the origin of mindfulness. Buddhism is thought to have begun somewhere between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C. Siddhartha Gautama was commonly known as the Buddha, which means “awakened one.” He lived and taught in the eastern part of India’s subcontinent. Anapanasati, or mindfulness of breathing, is a form of Buddhist meditation, and Gautama included this in his practice and teachings.

Fast forward 2500 years. Picture cell phones, computers, televisions, cars, and other modern inventions. Consider where your stress originates from. It is work? Home life? An overwhelming schedule? Being bombarded with emails or texts? Social media? Whatever your answer, I’m guessing it might be one or a combination of the things I just mentioned. Life is demanding and we are highly accessible.

Turn off and tune out. No, I’m not following in the footsteps of Timothy Leary and his LSD-based philosophy. It literally means turn off that electronic device and shift your focus to things like your breathing, the present moment, your five senses, etc. Panic might fill you to think that silencing your phone might mean you will miss something important. Will five minutes really be the end of the world? Can you or WILL YOU spare yourself a few minutes of your time to keep your sanity?

It is not healthy to be accessible and on electronic devices 24/7. Your brain needs a break. So let’s talk about how to incorporate mindfulness practice into your daily routine.

  • Choose a time each day that you can spare at least five minutes (15-20 minutes is preferable).
  • If you need to remind yourself to take a break or do your mindfulness exercises, put it in your phone’s calendar to alert you.
  • Depending on your comfort level, choose a place to sit or lie down (yes- you can even do this at your desk at work).
  • Silence, or better yet, turn off that phone.
  • Choose an object to focus your attention on (i.e. a pen, a Kleenex box, a cloud, a tree, etc.).
  • If you need to time yourself in order to alert you at the end point to the exercise, it is ok to set an alert/alarm on your phone, watch, or computer.
  • Take some deep breaths in and note the rise and fall of your chest and belly with each breath.
  • Slow your breathing and soften your gaze.
  • Now focus on your chosen object and note what it looks like, how it might feel to the touch, and any other properties it might have.
  • If other thoughts come into your head, simply note them and then return your attention to your object.
  • It is normal for your mind to wander so just note distractions without judgment and let them go.
  • Once your time is up, take some more deep breaths and shift back to your present moment- bringing your awareness to the touch of your body on your seat or cushion.
  • Now ask yourself, how did that feel? Was it difficult? Was it easy?

The biggest thing to note is that mindfulness takes practice. It will become easier to focus with time. This is a forced break from the rate race that has become a part of our daily lives. It may be helpful to download an app or follow a YouTube video for guided assistance as you start your journey of mindfulness practice. Magazines like Mindfulness or Flow Magazine are a great resource to help continue your practice.

 

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