Updated: Apr 27
Over the years, there have been a plethora of definitive therapies. However, mindfulness is one such therapy that has managed to stand out as one of the most effective ways of healing and curing individuals suffering from mental health disturbances. Mindfulness has proven to be quite helpful in our day to day regard too. From significant inconveniences, like depression, to minor daily hassles, mindfulness positively impacts the lives of those practising it regularly.
Mindfulness accounts for practising to be present at the moment. It is a state of mind which is entirely in tune with the present. It is the ability or rather the development of skill to regulate your senses to focus in the very moment. Also characterized by the non-judgmental acceptance of all types of thoughts flowing in our mind.
However trivial the task, with continuous practice of mindfulness, one can be fully aware and be present in the present. Be it eating, taking a shower or walking by yourself, all of these actions if done mindfully then the experience of the act becomes all the more enriching.
Essentially mindfulness helps us in taking our mind off the future and the past. Our mind is continuously engaged in worrying about the future. We tend to keep thinking about our past actions because our minds are wired to a problem fixing orientation. Meaning that our mind likes to think or instead try to take control of things that are entirely out of our control because we hate uncertainty. Such thoughts ultimately cause stress and inconvenience in various ways. Even while reading this, multiple things are going on in your head. For example, what would you do next or whether you have done what you had planned to do today, etcetera? The practice of mindfulness puts our minds at ease and helps us to solely focus on precisely the things at hand. One experiences a shift from being mind-full to becoming mindful, i.e., from working around with a mind full of thoughts to bringing oneself to the awareness of one's own thoughts and emotions.
The component of acceptance in mindfulness makes it even more exciting and widely practised. It means to accept ourselves just as we are without passing any judgment based on morality. In the process, we learn to identify and understand the problem before looking for its solution. Revolving around this is the concept of being compassionate towards our thoughts and feelings. As a result, being empathetic to ourselves as much as we wish to be to others is also involved. It is believed that unless we are aware of our own self and are more accepting and compassionate to ourselves, there is no way that we are to understand others and become compassionate towards them.
Practised in Hinduism, Buddhism and every other religion in their own ways maintains the central idea of freeing the mind from lurking into the past or future and being able to stay with oneself. Mindfulness has found its place in the treatment of very many psychological disorders. Therapists using this tool as a means of curing individuals with complaints like stress, trauma, anxiety, or depression has turned out to be fruitful in every which way possible. They help in understanding the difference between pain and suffering. Where pain is inevitable and referred to as the first arrow, suffering is optional, and self-inflicted and called the second arrow. And we suffer because we cannot stay with the pain. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the problem for a while and observe our emotions before setting our minds on the solution. Below are the various ways rather steps in which one gradually learns to become mindful:
Emotional resilience: it is central to mindfulness, that is the ability to adapt to stressful situations and crises. That means to develop inner support for our emotions as we lack any external support for feelings.
From Default to Direct: We have two types of network. The first one is the default network which the name itself suggests that it is automatic and is somewhat out of our control. For example, while attending a lecture, your mind drifts off to the upcoming trip you have planned to go on. Default network works on its own principles. The other type is the direct network that keeps us in the present and helps in experiencing the stimuli in real-time. It takes practice and conscious efforts to make a shift from the default network to direct network. Taking the example of drifting off to the thoughts of a trip, the direct system involves bringing your attention back to the lecture.
Unconditional positive regard for oneself and others
Witness awareness: it is learning to watch and notice before trying to fix.
The five pillars: Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an eight-week program aimed at reducing stress, stated the five pillars of mindfulness that must be practised each day.
Present moment focus
One should be able to sit with one's emotions and pain only when one is focusing on these five pillars of mindfulness.
Remember, to become mindful one has to practice daily and persevere. It takes years and years of practice to be aware. And to be compassionate to others, we first need to be the same to ourselves. So let's together embark on this journey of being mindfully ours.