You’ve probably heard about the incredible benefits of mindfulness or meditation. New research has shown how it produces lasting changes in attention, cognition and emotional regulation.
But why practice mindfulness? What is meditation? And what are the differences between the two?
Meditation is a formal, on-purpose practice that has you focus your attention, non-judgmentally, on the present moment, using your five senses—what you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell.
Mindfulness is a quality of behavior that can arise from more formal meditative practices. By engaging with the world mindfully, you can experience a richness, meaning and depth that was previously not available.
Take a moment to set a timer for 60 seconds. Think about a few things in your life that are stressful or things you would like to change.
With 1 being low and 10 being high, how cluttered does your mind feel? Use this same scale to analyze the tension in your body. How does your body feel? On a 1-low, 10-high scale, how present do you feel?
Now, reset the timer for 60 seconds and notice two or three sounds that you can hear right now. Focus on them. If your mind starts to wander to something else, gently and kindly notice that your mind has drifted and return your attention to the sounds around you.
Now, how cluttered does your mind feel on a 1-low, 10-high scale? How tense does your body feel? How present do you feel?
Another useful 60-second meditation is to gently and kindly notice that you are breathing. You don’t have to change how you are breathing, just be aware that you are breathing. If your mind wanders to something else, simply notice that your mind has drifted and return your attention to your breath. Can you notice that if you take a slightly deeper inhale, the air is just a little cooler as it enters your mouth and nostrils, and slightly warmer after being in your body as you exhale?
If you noticed a change, well done, you were able to practice a mindfulness process called “contacting the present moment.” This is one of the six core processes in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. You will learn about more of these in future blog posts!
The purpose of contacting the present moment is to increase our psychological flexibility. As we face the challenges of life, we can utilize this skill to mindfully behave in service of our values in any given situation while in the presence of emotional pain. By using this skill, we can change the influence and power emotional pain exerts over our lives.
If you didn’t notice a change yet, no need to worry! This is likely a brand-new skill to you that will become more beneficial as you practice. There are also plenty of other ways to practice contacting the present moment.
For more information about how to be present and increase your commitment to a life with greater vitality and meaning, email or call me today.
Wishing you love, hope and prosperity on your journey.
Chase Wickersham, LCSW