Mindfulness for anxiety and depression
This is a skill that has to be learnt and practiced. By paying attention to the present experience, in a particular way, and on purpose. It is a technique to observe thoughts, sounds, physical sensations, smells and sights that we may usually overlook. It takes practice to teach our minds to behave differently.
For example I might venture into the garden and as I look around, I think “that grass really needs cutting, and that flowerbed needs weeding”. However, my young daughter observing the same garden, may exclaim excitedly, “Mummy – come and look at this beautiful flower!” Mindfulness can simply be seeing what we don’t normally notice, because our heads are too full of the future or the past – consumed by thoughts of what needs doing, or scrutinising what we have done.
Exercises our ‘attention muscle’ facilitating mental agility, consequently we can choose what we focus on, rather than allowing our attention to be dominated by distressing thoughts that deprive us of the present moment.
Mindfulness for anxiety and depression concentrates our complete attention to present experiencing, on a moment to moment basis, without judgement, simply being aware of our own experiences with interest and openness.
Connecting with the present moment
Enables accurate perception of what is happening, allowing us to consider a change of behaviour. We can halt cognitive rumination or runaway thoughts allowing us to engage fully in the present moment.
Noticing our thoughts rather than getting caught up in them, seeing them in a different light, may not get rid of these unwanted intruders, but may reduce the influence they have on unhelpful cognitive processes.
Accepting and opening ourselves up fully to experience, as it really is, and not as our minds say it is. Mindfulness for anxiety and depression offers awareness, another perspective from which we can observe, recognise and accept changes and new experiences.
Striving to solve problems, our minds try to figure out how to avoid, get rid of or change the problem. This approach is successful with external difficulties, but applying this to unwanted feelings, memories or thoughts creates problems. Attempting to suppress, avoid or get rid of hurtful experiences, can cause high levels of anxiety and depression and subsequently affect day to day living and experiencing. Getting totally caught up and lost in our mental gyrations, aimed at “fixing” our state of happiness, pulls us away from the world around us.
The healing power of awareness – awareness of our own reactions to unhappiness can transform what might otherwise be a brief, passing sadness into a persistent catastrophic issue. Getting lost in the vortex of thinking and more thinking is debilitating, getting out of our heads and learning to experience the world directly, without the restless commentary of our thoughts can lead to openness and limitless possibilities for the happiness that life has to offer.
Observing thoughts as mental events that come and go in the mind – like clouds that travel across the sky, offers an opportunity to see thoughts for what they are – ideas – that don’t have to be taken literally and that are not necessarily the truth.