Mindfulness has been described as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” by John Kabat Zinn (1994) who is known for introducing the basic concepts of Mindfulness to the Western world . A wide range of mental health issues often stem from ruminating on the past that cannot be changed or worrying about the future. Rumination refers to continuously focusing on negative events, feelings, their causes and consequences. Mindfulness is a practice that can help people learn how to live in the present moment, relieve stress, and develop deeper connections with others. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to help with a variety of issues including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, pain, and stress management. Some of the benefits of mindfulness include improved physical health and mental health.
One of the basic building blocks of mindfulness is learning to pay attention to the breath as an anchor. Mindful breathing involves intentionally focusing on the breath without trying to adjust it. This can be practiced by turning attention to the breath and being aware of what’s happening in the body during each inhale and exhale. Many people find themselves distracted by their surroundings or by negative thoughts. This is quite normal and can be an opportunity to practice self-compassion versus self-criticism towards the experience.
Present Moment Awareness
By being fully present in the moment, people often find simple activities like walking, eating, or spending time with others to be more satisfying. One common issue that people with high stress levels, anxiety, or depression often struggle with is ruminating on the past. Rumination refers to the process of replaying a thought over and over again in your mind. This often leads to overanalyzing situations and ruminating on unsolvable problems. The more people ruminate on things, the more habitual this thinking pattern can become. One way to break this habit is to practice mindfulness and to cultivate present moment awareness.
Observe Without Judgment
Another key aspect of mindfulness is learning to notice thoughts without judging them, holding on to them, or reacting to them. This can be done by observing negative thoughts and then letting them go. For example, “I notice that I’m thinking about the past.” Noticing thoughts can help people shift from a place of judgment to observation. By practicing a non-judgmental attitude towards themselves and others, people often report feeling more grounded and less reactive to things in their environment.
1. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion.
By Shari Wood M.Ed., R.C.C.
The information provided on this blog are for educational purposes only and do not replace individual counselling or advise from your medical doctor. Further, they are not intended for those experiencing symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, for which emergency help should be sought.