COLORADO SPRINGS — There is so much stress and tension in our world today it can be a challenge to deal with. Unless you are in the habit of practicing mindfulness it’s likely not the first thing you think of when it comes to relieving stress, anxiety or depression.
So what is it to be mindful? Alice Barclay, is licensed professional clinical counselor with Thriveworks Counseling in Colorado Springs who explains, “Mindfulness is a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. There are two essential components of mindfulness, the first is awareness. Just being intensely present with emotions, thoughts, and I think most importantly body sensations.”
That’s often the easy part of practicing mindfulness says Alice. “The second component is acceptance and peace and that’s what most people find most challenging. “They're able to sit, close their eyes, focus on their breathing and focus on their body, but when the thoughts come in they start judging themselves. That non-judgmental acceptance of self is a huge piece of mindfulness that many people forget or don't realize.”
Practicing mindfulness is a form of meditation, which is an ancient practice and has been around for a long time. Alice says Meditation is used in most religions and cultures and it’s usually most commonly associated with Buddhism. Mindfulness can be practiced in different time lengths, from one minute, ten minutes or longer, and can bring tangible benefits to mood and health.
Alice says for example when it comes to anxiety, “Most anxiety is caused either by living in or past or living in the future. Ruminating on things that were done to us, grieving losses or resentments. In the future people can worry, ‘What am I going to do tonight for dinner? How am I going to get the car fixed in time to go pick up my kids?’ In the past and the future we can be trapped in these anxious and ruminating thoughts. Mindfulness helps us say, ‘I'll be present in the moment.’ There is usually not a lot of anxiety in the current moment.”
Alice says if you haven’t tried practicing mindfulness, there are many ways you can introduce yourself that can be effective. “It's easy to learn mindfulness. You could read a book, there are so many books. If you don't want to pay to learn about mindfulness, you can watch a free video anytime. There are tons of free videos on Youtube with guided mindfulness exercises.”
And as with most things in this day and age, Alice says there’s an App for that. “Some of the apps you have to pay for, like Insight Timer, Calm, that have a whole range of different exercises. There's even one minute mindfulness exercises out there. Mindfulness can be helpful for anxiety, depression, and other specific categories.”
Alice says people generally know what makes sense for them to try out first. While the basic principles of mindfulness are simple, the key to effective mindfulness is doing it consistently even when it's a struggle. “A lot of times when people start doing mindfulness, their immediate reaction is, ‘I'm not good at this, I can't do this, my mind is wandering.’ They can get really frustrated so going back to the acceptance piece (of mindfulness) I think is the key. That's where the practice is so important. Rather than giving up, people who start out learning mindfulness or are new to it should keep in mind.”
That’s where some guidance from a mental health professional can be very helpful. Alice says, “In the therapy world, mindfulness is a common intervention that we use. If you feel like you need more guidance, many therapists utilize mindfulness. It’s an evidence based practice with scientific research showing its effective.
If you are interested in learning more about learned mindfulness through counseling, feel free to reach out Thriveworks counseling in Colorado Springs, at (719) 266-3919 or, you can visit their website. (https://thriveworks.com/colorado-springs-counseling/)
Thriveworks Counseling is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family