There’s ample research to show how mindfulness has a positive impact on mental health. Just five minutes of mindfulness each day can reduce stress, help regulate emotion and attention, reduce depression and anxiety and prevent depressive relapse. There’s even evidence that practicing mindfulness each day can help people who are struggling with difference addictions.
While mindfulness isn’t a cure all solution, it has been beneficial or at least not harmful to most all people who decide to practice. “If someone is too sick – too depressed, too dysregulated, has unprocessed trauma or is actively psychotic – and doesn’t have adequate supports…” they would probably need other, more intensive treatment before attempting to practice mindfulness.
So what is mindfulness ? Google Dictionary defines it as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Mindfulness has seven different key elements: Non-Judgement, Patience, Beginner’s Mind, Trust, Non-Striving, Non-Attachment and Acceptance.
Trust is probably the most important element. As you learn to sit with your thoughts you also want to learn to trust yourself and your feelings so that you can clearly see what’s happening to you at any given time. Non-judgement is when you’re able to analyze your thoughts and feelings without deeming them good or bad. Everything is neutral. “Patience is the ability to bar difficulty with calmness and self-control.” Impatience usually comes from a place of self-centeredness. Cultivating patience will give you the wisdom to recognize that things have their own life cycle and the understanding needed to trust that process.
Beginner’s mind is your childlike nature. When you’re a child you’re seeing the world and experiencing all that it entails for the first time. So when analyzing your thoughts just explore them with a healthy curiosity instead of judging, trying to change or trying to eliminate them. Non-striving feels counterintuitive. In all aspects of life we are expected to get up and do something. When seeming to do “nothing” we’re often frowned upon. However, the brain needs rest to process. When you’re practicing non-striving you are simply being. You aren’t trying to do anything, you’re not doing anything. You just are.
Acceptance begins with the willingness to see things exactly as they are. Not how we feel they should be or how we wish they are but at face value. In order to fully accept things you’ll have to pass through feelings like anger, fear and grief. Those alone require acceptance and non-judgement to get through in a healthy way. Non-attachment, the last element, requires all the other elements to execute. Non-attachment is letting go. You have to be able to let go of any thoughts and self-talk you find that isn’t self-serving. When you start paying attention to your innermost thoughts you’ll find ideas, your own and those inherited from people you’ve experienced, that you may have the urge to cling to. Just let it go.