The practice of mindfulness teaches us a different way to relate to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they arise. It is about learning to approach and acknowledge whatever is happening in the present moment, setting aside our lenses of judgement and just being with whatever is there, rather than avoiding it or needing to fix it. (Source: Medium)
It’s the mind’s attempt to avoid and fix things in this moment that fuels a negative mood.
Sounds great. How do you do this “mindfulness”?
One method is sort of like meditating. Try doing this when you’re feeling okay, to practice:
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place
- Focus on your breathing
- Notice where in your body you feel the breathing (your chest, nose, belly)
- Acknowledge the breath coming in, then going out
- when your mind wanders, gently guide it back to your breathing
- Return your focus to your breath again and again
- Do this for 10 to 30 minutes once a day
To practice mindfulness is to retrain your brain to do what you want it to do. Rather than let the negative thoughts in your brain control you.
As you go about your day, when you feel a negative emotion or your mind starts to ruminate, be aware of what it’s doing and gently bring it back to the present.
I was introduced to mindfulness by a therapist. She helped me discover how my brain was frequently getting stuck in negativity. I had the tendency to let a negative thought (for example “nobody cares about me”) grow and exaggerate.
I call it “catastrophising”. At its worst, one negative though could ruin my entire day. It could morph into a hundred other negative thoughts which bounced around in my head like a pinball.
Some of my “go to” negative thoughts I was able to figure out and trace back to a traumatic event or something I learned as a child as a coping mechanism. Once I identified it was not a healthy rational thought, it was much easier to push the thought out of my mind.
For example, “I’m a bad mother” frequently popped into my head. This stems from my postpartum depression which forced me to quit breastfeeding. At the time, the message I got from family members was that it was my fault and I was a failure.
But they were wrong. I was and I am a good mother. So when “I’m a bad mother” pops up, I say to myself “not true” and I push the thought away.
There are thousands of articles, videos and podcasts about mindfulness. There are apps for your phone that walk you through it (they play some really wonderful music in the background too!).
It didn’t take me more than around 2 weeks of practicing, for mindfulness to make a major impact on my life. Now I only do it as needed. I encourage you to try it!