Exploring Mindfulness

By Karin Amador, LPC Associate

Supervised by Jennifer Buffalo, LPC-S, LMFT

“Wherever you are, be all there”-Jim Elliot

You’re feeling overwhelmed with life. You’re always on the go and the days seem to blur together. When you have free time, relaxation does not come easy, and your time is taken over by scrolling or overthinking. Before you know it, you’re flooded with thoughts about the future or the past, and you don’t feel like you were able to focus on the present moment at all. This may be a sign that mindfulness may be the missing link to slowing down and staying present in life. 

What is Mindfulness?

The word mindfulness sounds a lot like the idea of focusing your mind, but it’s so much more. Mindfulness is also a skill and a state of being. Mindfulness is the state of being present and aware of a current moment without judging yourself. Mindfulness involves focusing on your feelings, thoughts, body sensations, and surroundings and embracing them with acceptance and curiosity. 

How to be Mindful?

Many people associate mindfulness with meditation. That might be because both mindfulness techniques and meditation involve the process of focusing the mind, gaining awareness of the present moment, and connecting the body with the mind. Psychologist Shana Shapiro’s IAA model simplifies mindfulness into 3 easy components. The acronym IAA (Intention, Attention, Attitude) can help you remember how to practice mindfulness. 

“I”, Intention refers to purposely drawing your focus to yourself (your body and mind) and your environment. This may mean setting apart a short amount of time for mindfulness or minimizing distractions to improve focus. 

“A”, Attention refers to noticing any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that come to you as you set in intention to be mindful. Along with welcoming thoughts and feelings that come to mind, you might feel heightened sensations around you and find yourself connecting with the 5 senses. By focusing on what you can see, feel, hear, smell and taste, you can notice the intricacies of daily life. 

“A”, Attitude refers to maintaining an open and curious mind and refraining from being judgmental of what you experience in this moment. Even if you feel a challenging emotion, thought, or sensation, maintaining an open and accepting attitude can help you build awareness of the challenges present in these moments, as well as notice the absence of them when they subside.  

Using Mindfulness in Everyday Life 

You might ask yourself, “how much time does it take to be mindful?”. Whether you have  1 minute or 1 hour to focus on yourself, you can take as much time as you have to use mindfulness. An example of a 1-minute mindfulness exercise is taking a few minutes to engage in deep breathing. Breathing exercises such as belly breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, box breathing, and alternate nostril breathing can all be useful tools that help us connect our mind and body.

If setting aside time for mindfulness is not an option for you at this time, you can use mindfulness to check-in with yourself throughout the day and focus on any needs that have gone unnoticed. 

For instance, you had a long day, and you take a moment to pause and use mindfulness. You scan your body for any sensations and feel a pang in your stomach. The pang reminds you of how hungry you’re feeling and remember you haven’t had lunch today, so you decide to eat. In short, being mindful allows you to notice where you are physically, mentally, and emotionally, without being critical of yourself or the moment you are experiencing. 

Sometimes mindfulness can come with ease when paired with an activity that promotes self-soothing and relaxation, such as activities like art or yoga, or even daily activities like taking a walk, lighting a candle, drinking a hot or cold beverage, or cuddling with a pet.  The next time you find yourself putting your phone on “do not disturb” while enjoying a meal or you go outside for a breath of fresh air, you’re using mindfulness. Lean into it, you might notice something you haven’t before. 

Here at Luminary Counseling, we use tools like Mindfulness to support our clients in improving their mental wellbeing. If you’re interested in beginning a journey toward better mental health, each of our clinicians offer a FREE 30-minute consultation. We invite you to reach out to contact@luminarycounseling.com and schedule a consultation today.

Resources 

Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A. and Freedman, B. Mechanisms of mindfulness.

https://upaya.org/uploads/pdfs/ShapiroCarlsonetalMech.pdf

 

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