Mindfulness and Mental Health
Mindfulness has gained a lot of attention in the past years, but why is it that a practice that has existed since thousands of years is becoming so popular nowadays? The answer is simple. Even though mindfulness practitioners have been advocating it’s benefits for years, it is now that scientists have started backing up these claims with results from research.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the present moment, being aware of what you are doing in a non-judgmental state. Its purpose is to stop rumination by concentrating on one single task, so that your mind is “full” with it, and not being distracted by future/past situations.
The opposite of mindfulness would be turning on “autopilot”, a state where you are not really present in your life, and you are simply not paying attention. For example, after driving 30 minutes you arrive to your destination and realize you remember nothing about the journey, this is when you are in the “autopilot” state.
A simple technique
There are multiple techniques for practicing mindfulness. The most common technique is Mindful Breathing. This is very simple, it can be done standing, or even just lying down in a comfortable position. It consists of focusing on your breathing for 1 minute:
First inhale deeply through your nose for about 3 seconds, hold your breath for 2 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds. As you do so, you may find that your mind is distracted by other thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s Okay. Just notice that this is happening and gently shift your attention back to your breathing.
As mentioned before, the first benefit of mindfulness is reducing rumination, but it is not the only positive outcome. This trendy ability has multiple advantages.
It helps treat a variety of mental health issues, from depression, addiction and reducing stress, to even preventing burnout at work. Research shows that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) can be very helpful in dealing with mental health issues.
There is still some controversy on how effective mindfulness is, and if it has been overhyped, but one thing is for sure, it really does help patients understand their thoughts and manage their emotions, which is a crucial factor in mental health.