Therapy Mythbusters: Mindfulness & Meditation
The scientists say that mindfulness benefits us both physically and mentally. Some of these benefits include improved focus, increased emotional resilience, enhanced self-awareness, improved sleep quality, reduced stress, and improved physical health. Additionally, mindfulness can be a powerful tool for emotional regulation, helping you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and develop healthier coping strategies. Here are a few phrases that I hear constantly from my clients, so I figured other people might benefit if the record were set straight:
"Mindfulness and meditation are the same thing"
When I think about the word mindfulness, I consider it more an umbrella term and meditation being something that falls underneath that umbrella. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware and present in the moment, without judgement or attempting to change anything. The definition of meditation is to think deeply or focus one's mind for a period of time. While completing a mindfulness meditation is one way to practice mindfulness, there are other exercises such as mindful walking, cooking, eating and so many more activities where the main focus is something other than your mind or your breathing.
"I can't do mindfulness because it's impossible for me to think about nothing"
Remember, mindfulness is not the absence of thought. Mindfulness is simply noticing what is occurring in your brain at any given moment. If you are choosing to focus on your walk then you would be thinking about what you are noticing on that walk. Maybe what each step feels like or all the different colors you can point out or any of the 5 senses that speak to you that particular day. We often encourage beginners to start with focusing on their breath because no matter where you are or what your doing, you have to be breathing. This could include noticing your chest rise and fall, how the breath feels in your nose, or any sounds you make when you breath.
"My schedule is too busy for mindfulness"
If you find your schedule is already overwhelming then I definitely do not want this activity to contribute to that. So instead maybe trying to combine a mindfulness exercise with a task that you already do everyday as a part of your normal routine (i.e. brush your teeth or taking a shower). This way you can obtain the benefits of mindfulness while not having to squeeze another time block into your schedule. However, these same clients often tell me there goal is to practice mindfulness for like 20 minutes and that is way too long for a beginning who has not practices much. Maybe try starting with 1 minute or even 30 seconds if that seems like too much and building on that as you strengthen your mindfulness muscle.
I challenge you to try mindfulness for at least 1 minute everyday for 1 month before saying it does not work for you. Writing to keep track of your progress might help you determine if it is making a positive difference in your life. What do you have to lose?