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An Introduction to Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

First let me explain what it is NOT. Mindfulness is not a religion; it is not solely a form of relaxation; mindfulness is not an escape from reality; it is not an unattainable type of meditation meant only for monks and yogis. Mindfulness IS, quite simply, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. It can also be: relaxing, an escape from stress, and is practiced by plenty of monks and yogis (they’re onto something!).

Why bother?

There is a growing body of research that suggests mindfulness helps to improve a variety of human struggles, including: depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating disorders, relationship dissatisfaction, and physical health problems. New research indicates that practicing mindfulness actually changes your brain- in a good way.

Where do I start?

Wash a dish. No, really. That’s what I tell many of my clients as an introduction to mindfulness. Set the timer for 5 minutes and during that time, wash a single dish. Over and over. Don’t do anything else and, during that time, focus all of your attention on the act of washing the dish. Connect with your senses. Notice the feeling of your hands in the warm water, smell the dish soap you are using, listen to the sound of your swishing sponge. And when your mind drifts to the many other things you might (you may think “should”) be doing, gently redirect yourself back to the dish. That’s it. Sounds simple, right? It is and it isn’t. This may feel like a very long five minutes! You will likely have many thoughts about how silly and pointless the activity is – and each time you do, simply redirect yourself back to the task.

Where will it get me?

Engaging in this task- and any other mindfulness exercises- will flex your mindfulness muscle. As this metaphorical mindfulness muscle becomes stronger, it will start to help you in other areas of your life. When people focus on their experience in the present moment, it tends to make life more manageable. Mindfulness need not only be employed in the quiet moments of your life. The skills you will learn through mindful practice will help you when you’re frustrated, feeling disconnected from your spouse, fed up at work, stuck in a long line, or wrestling your toddler into his car seat. Once invited in, mindfulness can grow to be a lifelong companion. And unlike some other frequent visitors (depression, anxiety, anger, stress), this is one you’ll want to have around.

Resources:
http://www.freemindfulness.org/download

About the author:

Susanna Francies, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who joined Psychology Associates of Chester County, Inc. in March of this year. Dr. Francies sees both children and adults and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, PTSD, depression, parenting, autism, and post-partum depression.

 

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