What is Mindfulness?
There is often a common misconception that “mindfulness” means stopping all thoughts and emptying your mind, which is nearly impossible to achieve. The truth is that mindfulness does take practice, but it is so much more than meditation. It is a way of life.
Mindfulness is about increasing our ability to be present in the current moment, letting go of the worries of the past, and refusing to fixate on the “what if’s” of the future. This includes cultivating attention to our present thoughts, as well as our physical sensations, environment, and emotions.
The purpose of mindfulness is not about eliminating stress or worry, but becoming more in tune with ourselves and our current experiences. You probably have already experienced a state of mindfulness when you are eating your favorite dish or taking a moment to notice all of the brilliant colors in a sunset.
How Do I Become More Mindful?
Being mindful more often takes intentional practice. While mindfulness is more than meditation, this is often a great place to begin, as it allows you to take an actionable step towards practicing “mindful” awareness.
You can begin this practice by going on a mindful walk —taking in and appreciating all of your sensory information— or by starting regular meditation sessions.
How to Start Meditating
Meditation might seem intimidating to start or too time-consuming, but you really only need a few minutes a day to start a practice.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Plan a Time- Set aside a few minutes each day to practice. As you’re doing this, think about when in your day this will work best or be the most helpful to you. It can also be useful to consider when you might have access to a quiet and safe place for your meditation. Without setting this intention, it is all too easy to delay or put it off until the day is done
- Notice Your Body- Check-in with how you are sitting to ensure that you feel both stable and comfortable. Take a moment to check-in with how your body is feeling and simply notice. If you can relax any muscles or shift your position, do so now.
- Focus on Your Breath- Begin to bring attention to the inhale and exhale of the breath, taking note of the rise and fall of your chest, or how the breath feels on the tip of your nose. This can ground you in the present moment and give your mind somewhere to focus.
- Suspend Judgements- Meditation is not about judging the thoughts or feelings that come up as you sit. Mindfulness practice suggests only that you notice them, and gently bring your attention back to the breath. It is entirely normal for thoughts to wander. This does not disturb the meditation but rather allows you to practice self-compassion.
- Gently Redirect Thoughts- When you have realized your thoughts have strayed away from the present, observe the thought and after a few breaths, allow the thought to go and return the focus back to the breath. This will probably happen several times.
It can be useful as you are just starting to seek out some guided meditations. In addition to focusing on the breath, it can be helpful to have someone cue and prompt you throughout the meditation. Here are a few that are free to listen to — Check it out!
Living in the Present
Mindfulness exists and is available in every moment, even when you are not meditating. Just taking a moment to breathe and check-in with how you are feeling is being mindful. Developing this practice can help in everyday life to increase focus and be more present in relationships.
When you are more present with yourself you are more likely to notice relapse warning signs or if certain people or environments are making you uneasy. Mindfulness aids you in deepening the connection with your inner voice and helps you to notice what is in and around you.
Adding mindfulness and meditation into your routine can help you have more awareness of how your schedule is affecting you each day. This can bring about a curiosity and a non-judgemental approach to your daily life, allowing you the freedom to make choices congruent with your authentic self.
Mindfulness in Addiction Treatment at Washburn House
Mindfulness is one of the many skills that we teach at Washburn House both in our Inpatient Addiction Treatment Programs and through our intensive outpatient programs. Whether you’ve been in addiction recovery for some time or are just starting out, give Washburn House a call at 855.298.3104 to see which of our programs are right for you!