MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Mindfulness when you need it the most
Some topics surrounding mental health seem to arise over and over because they are important. Our current situation as a country seem to call for one of those topics to rise again. We might all need a reminder of how important mindfulness can be for all of us in navigating our daily lives in the face of current challenges.
Science has shown us, in recent years, the many physical benefits of having a regular mindfulness practice. We have learned that long term high stress is a major contributor to many chronic health problems. Since 1979, we have seen increasing research proving mindfulness mediation to lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, help treat heart disease and improve sleep. But what about your mental health? If it can help you avoid common chronic illnesses, can it help you with mental health challenges as well? The answer is a resounding, Yes! It is increasingly common for mindfulness to play a part in psychotherapy for treatment of depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, interpersonal conflicts, anxiety and panic disorders.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, who brought mindfulness into the mainstream discussion through science and research, defined it best. He describes is as "...paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally...". So then, you may ask, 'what does that do for me?" This simple act takes us away from what I call the 'yak-yak machine', which is the thinking part of our brain. This default network of thoughts about who we are, who we should be, what we are doing, what others think of us, what's going to happen, is it good or is it bad. All of those thoughts, which we all have, keep us from the peace of just 'being' in the present moment, where we are, doing just one thing.
I have personally practiced mindfulness for thirty-plus years and began about twenty years ago to integrate it into my work with clients. I like to teach my clients what I call The Texas Three Step. It's a dance of sorts that you do with your yourself to practice staying in the present moment, or, practicing mindfulness to improve your overall well-being. It goes like this: 1) Focus your attention on your breathing, in and out, 2) Notice what comes up in your mind, accept it and allow it to pass along, out of your mind, and 3) Refocus your attention on your breathing. It is that simple.
If you find yourself struggling to stay present and grounded in the middle of what’s going on around you recently, consider how to develop your own mindfulness practice. Here are some websites that will give you helpful information and simply 'how to' articles on mindfulness and how it can benefit your life: www.mayoclinic.com, www.mindful.org, www.verywellmind.com.
Bill Mory is licensed therapist in private practice, in Texoma, who is an active member of the local behavioral health network and a provider of workplace training on Mindfulness, Emotional Brain Training and other topics. Learn more at www.morytherapy.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.