Mind-Full or Mindful: How Can Mindfulness Help You?
You’ve probably heard the word “Mindfulness” on the internet, on social media, or when talking to your friends. You’ve probably also thought “there’s no way I can sit still and meditate,” or “there’s no way that works.” Let’s talk about what mindfulness is, and how helpful it really can be.
Mindfulness meditation started as an Eastern Buddhist tradition. A man named Jon Kabat-Zinn realized that this could help people with chronic pain, and introduced mindfulness into the medical world a few decades ago. He once described it as “paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” In other words, it’s a way for you to let yourself feel your emotions, to listen to your body, and to do so without thinking that any feeling is right or wrong.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many forms. For example: it can be a class that you take, an app such as Calm or Headspace that you use on your phone, or it can be an exercise, such as the one below, which can be done while you’re sitting, lying, walking, or even hanging upside down.
SOBER Breathing Space – A short breathing practice that can be used one or many times a day. May be done in any position and in any environment.
- Stop. When you are stressed, anxious, or just wishing for a moment to yourself, stop what you are doing to do this exercise.
- Observe what is happening inside your body. What your thoughts? What emotions are you feeling? No feeling or emotion is good or bad. Observe your surroundings. What is happening around you?
- Breathe in and out, and focus on nothing else but your breath.
- Expand your awareness back to your whole body and to the situation around you.
- Respond How do you feel now? How can you resume your day by responding to the situation around you, rather than reacting?
Where can mindfulness make a difference?
Practicing frequent mindfulness has been studied in teenagers and young adults for a variety of different problems. Mindfulness may help to:
- Decrease anxiety, depression, and stress
- Improve quality of life and relationships for teens with chronic pain
- Help teens cope with living with a chronic medical problem
- Improve binge eating, overeating, and eating disorders
- Help teens get better sleep
- Decrease stress from ADHD symptoms
- Decrease cravings for those struggling with substance abuse
Mindfulness does not have to be something you do only at certain times. For example: you can learn to do simple activities mindfully, such as washing dishes (focus on the feel of the soap or movements as you clean) or eating lunch (closing your eyes, feeling each bite, and recognizing every taste)**. The most important thing is that practice makes…better. No one is perfect at mindfulness. It is ok if your mind wanders, but with regular practice you’ll learn to become better at noticing your stray thoughts and be able to pull yourself back into the mindfulness zone.
* https://mindfulnessforteens.com/ This is a great website created by Dr. Dzung Vo that tells you even more about mindfulness, and even includes audio recordings of guided mindfulness practices.
** https://youngwomenshealth.org/2012/12/27/mindful-eating/ Here is a link for more information about mindful eating