Mindfulness is about developing awareness of our mental state in the present moment. This often entails recognizing when thoughts are affecting our emotions and non-judgmentally separating ourselves from thoughts that do not serve us. Sometimes, it involves mentally scanning the body to refocus on the present. Other times, it may rely on closed eyes and ten deep breaths. No matter the method of practice, mindfulness is done in service of self-understanding, healing, and ultimately, improved mental health.
Separating Yourself From Your Thoughts
Thoughts have a unique influence over our emotions. A single thought has the power to take us from smiles to tears, and these triggers, though valuable tools in understanding our trauma, can be avoided with mindfulness practices. It can be helpful to acknowledge that we don’t have control over our thoughts. Like breathing, thinking is something that comes naturally to humans, and the brain does it without us consciously trying. Remember that we are not our thoughts, and thoughts only have as much validity as we give them. Anxious thoughts are a great example of thoughts that do not always serve our mental health. But through mindfulness, we can learn to recognize when and how those anxious thoughts are affecting us. That way, we can effectively separate ourselves from those thoughts and break the hold they have on our mental health.
Mindfulness is far more than simple positive thinking. It has a transformative power that has been shown to positively impact mental health in those with a wide range of physical and mental health problems. And it’s valuable to everyone, not just those with health problems. The practice of mindfulness is about adapting to life’s many twists and turns and overcoming the mental barriers that our brains sometimes put in our way when we aren't paying attention. Not to mention, many people already carry the weight of trauma and mental illness, which means everyday tasks can sometimes cause an irregular amount of distress. Practicing mindfulness helps us navigate these situations with a more realistic and honest perspective, one that works to filter out the self-harming thoughts that crop up when we least expect them.