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The Importance of Mindfulness by Jade Caswell, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern

If you have had a session with one our therapists, or have read a self-help book recently,

chances are you have heard of the benefits of practicing mindfulness. But what is it? And how

can you practice? These are topics we will be discovering below.

Mindfulness, in simple terms, means connecting with the present moment. Oftentimes, our

minds are busy worrying about the future or ruminating over the past, which can lead us to

experience a variety of painful emotions, including anxiety and depression. Think about how

often we experience feelings of sadness, regret or pain when we are stuck in the past or

worrying about what may happen in the future. When we practice mindfulness, or simply bring

ourselves into the present moment, we can begin to experience a sense of grounding and relief.

The benefits of mindfulness have been well-researched and include slowing brain aging, stress

relief and relaxation, emotional regulation, and improved concentration. Mindfulness is not

only a buzzword or a fad, it's research-backed and included in therapeutic approaches such as

Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Positive

Psychology.

Starting a mindfulness practice can be easy, quick, requires no cost, and is accessible to anyone.

While only a few mindfulness techniques will be covered in this blog, there are, in fact,

numerous ways of practicing mindfulness. You can even come up with your own practice that

suits your needs. Almost any activity- eating, walking, breathing, etc. can be practiced

mindfully. What is most important is that you are focusing on the existence of the present

moment, and non-critically observing any thoughts, feelings or sensations that come up.

Remember to catch yourself if you are fading into the past or worrying about the future. This

does not serve you in the present moment. Below are two mindfulness practices to try out.


Breathwork


Focusing on the breath is one of the simplest mindfulness techniques. When we are connected

with our breath, our minds and bodies are united, and we can access a sense of peace and

grounding.

1. Start by relaxing your gaze or closing eyes and getting into a comfortable position.

2. Breathe in through your nose and count slowly (1-2-3-4)

3. Hold your breath for a count of 7 (1-2-3-4-5-6-7)

4. Breathe out for a count of 8 (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8)

As you are doing this exercise, pay attention to the present moment. Notice any thoughts or

feelings you are having. Become aware of how your breath enters and exits the body. Do

not worry if your mind wanders, just do your best to try to bring your attention back to your

breath. Remember, there is no ";right" way to do this exercise. Repeat this process for 5-60

minutes.


Walking Meditation


Practicing a walking meditation is similar to the breath exercise, because it is all about paying

attention to our thoughts, feelings and sensations in the moment. This exercise, however, is

more active and can encourage us to get outside and appreciate our natural surroundings.

1. Choose a safe place where you can walk- in nature, in the city, in your own home, etc.

2. Take a few deep breaths to begin your practice. Deep inhales through your nose and exhales

out through your mouth.

3. Take small, slow steps and observe your movement. How is the ground supporting your feet?

Notice the lifting of your feet, shifting of weight, or swaying of your arms.

4. Take a moment to observe any sounds you are hearing. For example, are there sounds of

cars around you or waves crashing on the beach?

5. Notice any thoughts you are having and bring yourself back into the present moment. It is

normal if the mind wanders, just do your best to try to bring your attention back to the present.

Seal your practice by thanking yourself for making time for YOU and express gratitude for the

present moment.

Note: Other mindfulness exercises may be found on previous blog posts. These include "Simple

Mindfulness Exercise: Three Senses" and "A Simple Mindfulness Exercise: Coming back to

yourself".

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