At its essence, mindfulness is being aware. Mindfulness is a way of life, a tool we can implement as part of our lifestyle. Mindfulness, like exercise, eating, and good sleep habits require practice.
Being mindful suggests we are fully engaged in what's happening, what we're doing, and space we occupy. Mindfulness is the act of noticing and paying attention to our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors. It may seem self-evident and easy to do, except for the fact that we can physically be present while our minds wander about other stuff that might have happened already or have the probability to occur in the future.
Facts to Know About Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an evidence-based practice. Advances in science and brain studies have been able to prove how effective it is in improving the quality of peoples' lives, both mentally and physically. Scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in several ways.
Mindfulness can: relieve stress, treat heart disease, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties. In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an essential element in the treatment of many issues, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, couples' conflicts, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Mindfulness helps with acceptance. When supporting a loved one's recovery, there is a lot that is outside of our control. Mindfulness keeps us aware of the present moment and helps us stay away from a narrative we may be forming about a person or situation. Mindfulness teaches us to accept what is, as opposed to staying fixated on what was or what might be.
Why consider making mindfulness a daily practice?
It can be transformative. As simple of a concept that mindfulness is, it requires commitment and dedication to nurture a regular mindfulness practice. When done successfully, mindfulness can transform how we interact in every aspect of our lives, including how we interact with ourselves.
Life can be chaotic and full of uncertainty, especially when we have someone we love struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. We often find ourselves hanging out with family/friends, being at work, or simply completing a task only to have the time 'go by' without noticing; because we were wondering about our addicted person's well being. We also find ourselves experiencing life in a blur and continuously reacting to life as it happens to us due to the stressors.
Mindfulness improves well-being. Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged and present in all you do, and creates a higher capacity to deal with more challenging events. Many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem and are better able to form deep connections with others.
Mindfulness assists in preventing us from being on 'auto-pilot' too often, caught up in our narratives, thought-loops, and feelings without connecting these things to the present moment. We can easily find ourselves worried sick about another's well being, at any time and no matter what we are doing. Practicing mindfulness allows us to enjoy life's small moments, even amid the chaos, and keeps us grounded.
The Art of Mindfulness
The objective of mindfulness practice is to increase our awareness of our thoughts and feelings. It is to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Cultivating mindfulness is like building up muscle - if you don't do it regularly, your body and mind will fall back into old habits.
We can easily get caught up in our thoughts, feelings, and narratives we tell ourselves and confuse them with reality. We lose touch with our body and mind, and pretty soon, we're engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future.
As you practice paying attention to what's going on in your body and mind at the present moment, you'll find that many thoughts arise. Your brain might drift to something that happened yesterday, or wander to your 'to-do' list—your mind will try to be anywhere but where you are. The goal is to gently, and compassionately, notice your thoughts are wandering and bring them back into the present moment.
But when we begin to pay attention to our thoughts and feelings, we start to realize that we can be very, very hard on ourselves. Mindfulness necessitates that we observe our present moment thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment. A word like 'should' and 'shouldn't' are warning signs that we're judging. 'I shouldn't have said/done/felt that,' or 'I should be doing more/less of this' is a sign we are casting judgment on ourselves.
Sometimes we find ourselves wondering if we're doing this right, or well enough. Remember - the goal is to sit quietly and observe each moment, each thought, each feeling, precisely as it is. Be gentle on yourself, and watch for negative self-talk. Be as kind and loving to yourself as you are to someone you love.
Five tips to start a mindfulness practice:
Do a Body Scan: Begin by noticing your body. Take notice of every part.
Pay attention to your Breath: Start by directing your full attention to your Breath. The Breath is the essence of life - without it, we can't survive. Follow the sensations you feel with the intake and outtake of your Breath. You can start with deeper breaths if that centers you, or breathe normally.
Take inventory of your environment. What are some sounds, smells, and happenings you can observe?
Setting a reminder. Mindfulness is a practice we can implement anywhere and anytime. We need to remind ourselves to stay in the present moment, especially when we are just starting.
Make it a practice asking: what am I thinking, now?
Mindfulness is a great tool used to help us be free of both the past and future — the 'what if's' and 'maybes' — and free of judgment of right or wrong — so that we can be present without distraction.
About Passaje, LLC
Passaje, LLC's mission is to help families heal from substance use disorder. Addiction is a family disease. Thus everyone in the family also needs help and support, aside from having the addicted person seek treatment. When families are not aware of their roles and influence and are having difficulties managing triggering thoughts, it complicates and deters the recovery journey for all involved.
My wish is to help individuals in the family approach recovery as a team because no one can do it alone. Families and friends need help and support as much as the person struggling with drug and alcohol addiction does, especially given the fact that tough love is not always practical. There's a fine line between enabling and adequate support. Family recovery is vital.
Contact me to ask questions or find out more about Passaje, LLC. You can also schedule a free mini-consultation to learn more.