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MINDFULNESS

By acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations while focusing one's awareness on the present moment, this mindset can be used as a therapeutic method. Mindfulness is the practice of being profoundly aware of what you are thinking and doing, your mind is at rest yet fully alert and wide awake. It's quite an ideal headspace to be in right now.

Mindfulness is an essential practice to manage our mental health besides instilling the concept of self-reliance to drive us. It ensures that your consciousness is focused on the present moment at any given time, instead of looking to the future or dwelling on the past (Thich Nhat Hanh 1975). Although having these thoughts is okay and a completely natural process of the brain, I found that fixating on a thought (looping thoughts) for a prolonged period can feel pretty heavy emotionally and disconnects me from my present moment + environment. It places me in an unproductive mental state that isn't beneficial for my mental health. When you apply mindfulness, you will rediscover how to appreciate the simpler things in life, such as the task at hand, your body + your surroundings through awareness. Overall, you will appreciate life more (gratitude) and have more acceptance of what is instead of wanting anything to be different. It's also a Buddhist practice that involves keeping present, conscious breathing, meditation, having a compassionate outlook, and applying the concept that everything in the world is interconnected.

The Process: Awareness is the first step to mindfulness, resulting from relaxed attention. When you’re practicing mindfulness, you are attentive to your surroundings, your thoughts, and your feelings. This attention is not forced, with a soft focus rather than hard concentration. Once awareness is in place, practice acceptance of your feelings of comfort or discomfort, 'positive' or 'negative' thoughts, and just letting them be without judgment as they drift into and out of your mind without latching onto anything. You are accepting the reality of your situation through mindful thinking and gathering these thoughts for you to work on them (you can read more about the practice of radical acceptance which falls under mindfulness). The mindfulness mindset works in conjunction with the practices mentioned on the MNSTR Method page; to attain greater focus and a calmer mind so that you can navigate this world filled with distractions, people, and events more effectively. Sounds easy in theory and realistically it can be, but it does take conscious practice to transform how one used to interact with their emotions and situations.   

I was driven to no longer be affected by the symptoms of my C-PTSD with the main intention being to heal someday, however long it takes, and carefully handling it one symptom at a time. It took me a couple of months to get to a point where my mind wasn't actively carrying the emotions and scars of my past experiences to my present moment. As a result of daily mindfulness, along with guided meditations, journaling, skating, and several other practices... I felt more content and calmer in my mind which is a significant contrast to how I was before I started.  I have minimal anxiety in my every day and am able to focus on what's right in front of me, and what I can control which are my thoughts + reactions. Combining practice and intention helps to achieve this, I still have days where several factors may contribute to my anxiety but I have previously prepared coping mechanisms that take me out of that mode, and it became easier each time through repetition. Making things happen begins with having meaningful intentions for the things that you do every day; It could be something small like being more present with your tasks while doing them without distractions or it can also be something major, such as wanting to heal from your mental health condition(s). I had that same intention when I started working on my mental health a few years ago and continue to work on it.

To add to this, mindfulness is also a core component of self-compassion which helped me change the negative inner voice that I had ever since I was a child, this took some work but I have a much kinder inner voice now. Combining the two can help greatly change the way you think and live your life. I've compiled some thoughts below from Dr. Kristin Neff's Self-compassion website...

 


MINDFULNESS OR SELF-COMPASSION?

Actually both...How do mindfulness and self-compassion relate to one another?

 

  • Mindfulness focuses primarily on acceptance of the experience itself. Self-compassion focuses more on caring for the person experiencing it.

  • Mindfulness  asks, “What am I experiencing right now?” Self-compassion asks, “What do I need right now?”

  • Mindfulness says, “Feel your suffering with spacious awareness.” Self-compassion says, “Be kind to yourself when you suffer.”

Mindfulness and self-compassion both allow us to live with less resistance toward ourselves and our lives. If we can fully accept that things are painful, and be kind to ourselves because they’re painful, we can be with the pain with greater ease. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or bashing ourselves with self-criticism. Just like how you would treat a close friend of yours with care but apply that to yourself. Mindfulness, journaling, and meditation practices help so much with this. (More about those practices on the next page.)

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF SELF-CRITICISM AND SELF-COMPASSION

When we criticize ourselves we’re tapping into the body’s threat-defense system (sometimes referred to as our reptilian brain). Among the many ways we can react to perceived danger, the threat-defense system is the quickest and most easily triggered. This means that self-criticism is often our first reaction when things go wrong. Feeling threatened puts stress on the mind and body. Chronic stress can cause anxiety and depression. This is why habitual self-criticism is so bad for emotional and physical well-being. With self-criticism, we are both the attacker and the attacked. 

Compassion, including self-compassion, is linked to the mammalian care system. That’s why being compassionate to ourselves when we feel inadequate makes us feel safe and cared for, like a child held in a warm embrace. Self-compassion helps to downregulate the threat response. When the stress response (fight–flight–freeze) is triggered by a threat to our self-concept, we are likely to turn on ourselves in an unholy trinity of reactions. We fight ourselves (self-criticism), we flee from others (isolation), or we freeze (rumination).  When we practice self-compassion, we are deactivating the threat-defense system and activating the care system. Oxytocin and endorphins are released, which helps reduce stress and increase feelings of safety and security.  

CAN YOU BE KIND TO YOURSELF?

Adversities in life are inevitable... when we resist the pain, it usually just makes the pain more intense. It’s this add-on pain that can be equated with suffering. Another common form of resistance is denial. We hope that if we don’t think about a problem, it will go away. Research shows that when we try to suppress our unwanted thoughts or feelings, they just get stronger. Moreover, when we avoid or suppress painful thoughts and emotions, we can’t see them clearly and respond with compassion. (K. Neff)

The practice of mindfulness can help to manage our emotions better, especially feelings that are known to be labeled as negative or 'bad' such as anger, frustration, fear, guilt, emptiness, inadequacy, loneliness, and helplessness. 'Emotions are not right or wrong, they simply are.'(J Bradshaw)Learning to 'welcome' all emotions and sit with them instead of avoiding them/finding distractions... to sit with the emotions while being compassionate with yourself as you go through those feelings. It's also an opportunity to learn about what you need in life from the emotions that you experience. I do believe in soothing techniques aka coping mechanisms for when you are feeling overwhelmed such as breathing exercises (which are so beneficial + quick) and I'd address the emotions within the same day to not let them stew overnight. After sitting with the emotion, acknowledge your experience through journaling, addressing it with questions like why were you *insert emotion*? How did you react? without judgment and out of observation. Through these mindful practices, you can transform your raw emotion(s) and channel it into something productive, it can be a healthy way to give you clarity on your own. 

Being conscious of the here and now is a skill learned over time, focus meditation has helped a lot with allowing thoughts in my mind to flow freely without latching on to every single one of them by observing without judgment. Journaling helped me find clarity with all my thoughts at the end of each day through the writing and reflection process. With mindfulness, the present is a gift that we can access immediately and helps us to focus on what's in front of us and what we can do about it. It is EVERYTHING. I appreciate you reading this MINDFULNESS page, the next page is to go onto is the MNSTR METHOD of MENTAL HEALTH MANAGEMENT (MMMHM) where I'll explain in detail the practices that have helped to manage my mental health quite effectively.

SOURCES: 

Dr. Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion website <https://self-compassion.org>

Thich Nhat Hanh, 1975, The miracle of mindfulness.

Shian-Ling KengMoria J. Smoski, and Clive J. Robins, Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679190>

Dr. Kristin Neff + Christopher Germer, Mindful.org website <https://www.mindful.org/the-transformative-effects-of-mindful-self-compassion>

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