Mindfulness: What’s all the fuss about?

So many of you have completed my survey and the feedback has been insightful and thought provoking.  One question I have had is:

How can mindfulness help me with my hoarding tendencies?

Great question!

First of all what is mindfulness?  Well it’s paying deliberate attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment and it’s the practice of paying attention to the present moment experience…living your life in a way as if it matters.  It’s not the same as meditation which tends to be of a spiritual or religious nature.  Let me demonstrate what it isn’t.

We have a tendency to live our lives in our heads…I think I’ll be getting a few nods right now… There is a tendency for us (humans I mean) to move through our lives without taking in the sights, sounds, smells and feel of our environment in the moment because we are programmed to seek out the negative events as a survival instinct.  Modern life throws up a plethora of negative events daily, the majority of which aren’t life threatening.  We are forever replaying experiences in our minds – usually negative ones – that we stew over and over; this rumination about the past leads to depression.  These are the “what ifs” and “if onlys” of our thought processes.  For hoarding sufferers this is all those thoughts about:

If only…

I had more room,

I hadn’t bought every colour available in that dress,

I had let go of these years ago,

and the:

What if…

I hadn’t thrown out those screws 10 years ago I could save some money now,

I had sold those collectables now instead of 4 years ago and made my fortune,

I throw out that psychology textbook and need it the very next day…

The fear of future hardship or loss that is only hypothetical leads to anxiety.  Perfectionism makes us save “just in case” because we don’t want to make mistakes.

So you can see we tend to live in the past or in the future but rarely in the present.  The thing is – we can’t change the past and we can’t predict the future so essentially these thoughts are unproductive and – dare I say – damaging.  I know it seems fantastical that we can forget our pasts, because they form who we are and who we will be, however from time to time it is beneficial to get out of our heads, stop the constant mental dialogue and just be in the now.  Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Life is right now” is worth a watch.  The developer of the mindfulness measure and the man who brought mindfulness to mainstream medicine, Kabat-Zinn, is passionate and knowledgeable about this movement and the physical and psychological benefits of being present for each and everyone of us.  So what can mindfulness do for you?

We are all seeking happiness and mindfulness can help move us towards a more fulfilling life.  The benefits of mindfulness are many and there is science to back it up.  It improves wellbeing by supporting many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life.  Being mindful makes it easier to savour the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.  By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.

Physically mindfulness can:

  • help relieve stress
  • treat heart disease
  • lower blood pressure
  • reduce chronic pain
  • improve sleep
  • alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties

Mindfulness has been shown to be an important element in the treatment of:

  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • couples’ conflicts
  • anxiety disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

How can I be more mindful and gain the benefits?

Another great question:

Psychology Today has a great number of excellent how-to articles that can help you learn to be more mindful.  A simple way to start is by concentrating on your breathing – it’s impossible to be stressed or anxious when you are focusing fully on the breath like this.

How could you be more mindful in your life? (hint, one way is concentrating fully on the process of doing the dishes not wishing you were finished or hoping for the clean-up fairy to drop in and wave his wand 🙂 )

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