Being mindful means being aware of and accepting the present moment. Mindfulness involves bringing your complete awareness to the present moment as opposed to getting caught up in your thoughts. Even in a difficult, unpleasant, or painful experience, you can be open to it and curious about it rather than running from it or fighting with it.
One of the major questions I get from clients when first learning mindfulness is, “How is being aware and present in the moment going to help me with my problems?” Depending on your situation, mindfulness can help in a number of ways. Here is a list of a few ways that mindfulness can help:
1. Rumination: When we ruminate on the past, we worry about things that have happened that we cannot change. This rumination can lead us to get caught up in unhelpful thoughts and feelings. It takes ALL of your time and attention, and you may miss out on other, perhaps pleasurable experiences. Mindfulness helps you notice the present moment instead of staying stuck in a moment you can’t change.
2. Divided Attention: Many of us multitask as a way to get things done more quickly. However, research shows that multitasking is not effective; we usually get less done or make more mistakes. Mindfulness helps keep your attention on ONE thing. When your attention is focused on that one thing, you can enjoy it more or be more effective in the situation.
3. Controlling Attention: Mindfulness helps you take control of your mind. By controlling your attention/mind, you are able to decide what you will attend to, for how long, what you will do when your mind drifts, and how you bring it back instead of your mind controlling you.
4. Self-Regulation: Practicing mindfulness helps you recognize and attend to bodily sensations and emotions more easily. By recognizing these sensations and emotions, you will be more likely to be able to regulate them.
5. Changing Patterns: Patterns and habits occur when you are not fully aware. In order to change patterns and habits, especially unhelpful ones, you must first be aware of them. Mindfulness can help you bring awareness to these habits and patterns so that you can work on changing them.
6. Self-Trust: Mindfulness helps you pay more attention to your inner experiences, such as feelings, perceptions, judgments, and decisions. The more you are able to pay attention to these inner experiences and what they are telling you about the situation you are in, the more you are able to trust that what you are experiencing is true.
7. This too shall pass: Nothing lasts forever. Experience changes. Every moment passes by. By being mindful of each moment, there can be a decrease in painful emotions because your brain learns that “this too shall pass.”
Written by Jondell Lafont, LPC-Intern
When we experience a significant loss, we are challenged to continue to find purpose. Our lives have been rewritten. We might seek out therapy from a counselor to cope. A mindfulness approach from a counselor offers an opportunity to honor grief and loss as significant to health and well-being.
Grief gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect. We are alternatively called to re-navigate our lives. We hope to change it into something positive. At that time we give ourselves the opportunity to transition as a person towards something more evolved.
The truth that is quickly understood by a person in the grieving process is that it is not predictable or linear. It can feel very erratic and sometimes out of control. It is often experienced as a “roller coaster” or “spiral” and can feel very unsettling. At times, grief and be frightening. Part of the natural human experience is suffering and this is a prime example of a natural occurrence in a persons life.
Awareness and acceptance of these points are beneficial in the process. Emotional vulnerability gives us opportunity for human growth. Our attachment towards the deceased is expressed as a loss in self identity awareness. The bottom line is that grief and loss is a natural expression of a loss of something that ultimately helped us define ourselves. We are in fact grieving how we ourselves will be changed by the event.
A mindfulness based counselor can assist in the process of sorting thoughts and feelings out during the process. They are able to take the time to sit with you and guide through the process of the vast feelings that are occurring and help make some sense of it and give it purpose.
The goal is acceptance and resolution about the changes that have occurred and in the end, peace.
Written by Beckett Franklin-Gray, LPC-Intern
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a third wave behavioral therapy (along with DBT and MBCT) that uses mindfulness skills to develop psychological flexibility and helps clarify and direct values-guided behavior. ACT, pronounced “act,” (not by it’s initials A-C-T) is a directive and experiential form of therapy based on Relational Frame Theory (RFT), its underlying scientific theory of human language and cognition. This theory emerges from the philosophy of Functional Contextualism, as opposed to mechanistic models, which aim to repair, change, or fix “problems.” Instead ACT does not see clients as damaged or flawed, and do not define unwanted experiences as “symptoms” or “problems,” but resolves to define the function and context of behavior (ACT defines behavior to encompass both private and public activity, ie. actions, thoughts, memories, emotions, sensations) in order to determine its “workability,” for the purposes of creating rich and meaningful lives.
The aim of ACT is to experience the fullness and vitality in life, which includes a wide spectrum of human experience, including the pain that inevitably goes with it. Acceptance (not the same as approval) of how things are, without evaluation or attempts to change it, is a skill that is developed through mindfulness exercises in and out of session. ACT does not attempt to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings (as in CBT), but to develop a new mindful relationship with those experiences that can free a person up to be open to take action that is consistent with their chosen values. Thus, values clarification is a key component to ACT.
Six Core Processes
Psychological flexibility is the main goal of ACT and is created through six core processes:
1. Contact with the Present Moment
6. Committed Action
These six process are not separate, but overlapping and interconnected. All six of these processes are introduced and developed experientially over the course of treatment. Psychological flexibility can be defined simply as “the ability to be present, open up, and do what matters.”
Being present means being in direct contact with the present moment, rather than drifting off into automatic pilot, and getting in touch with the observing self, the part that is aware of, but separate from the thinking self. Mindfulness techniques are taught to experience the observing self firsthand, whether they bring awareness to each of the five senses, thoughts, or emotions.
Opening up is the ability to detach from thoughts (defusion) and accepting, or making space for and dropping the struggle with painful feelings, urges, sensations, etc. Acceptance is the ability to allow what is to be as it is instead of fighting or avoiding it. If someone is thinking, “I’m a terrible person,” they might be instructed to say, “I am having the thought that I’m a terrible person.” This effectively separates the person from the cognition, thereby stripping it of its negative charge. When someone is experiencing painful emotions, like anxiety for example, they might be instructed to open up, breath into, or make space for the physical experience of anxiety and allow it to remain there, just as it is, without attempting to eliminate it, which has a paradoxical effect of making it much worse.
Do What Matters
And finally doing what matters is all about values clarification, knowing what matters to you personally, and taking effective action guided by those values. Various exercises are employed to help identify chosen values, which act like a compass from which to direct intentional and effective behavior. People who are fused with their thoughts and tend to struggle with or avoid painful emotions, often struggle with choosing purposeful and values-guided action. Through mindful liberation from such struggle they find acting congruently with their values quite natural and fulfilling.
Written by Jiovann Carrasco, LPC-S, Founder and Clinical Director Austin Mindfulness Center
About Our Blog
Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.