“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each movement. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
How many times in the past few months have you heard the word “mindfulness”? It’s become a “buzzword” in today’s world. Many people talk about it, but few actually understand it's true meaning. At its root, mindfulness is a form of meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as follows: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
That might sound simple at first, but when’s the last time you can say you honestly practiced this state of being for any amount of time? Would you ever consider having a therapist to help you achieve such a state? I have to be honest and admit that when I was first introduced to mindfulness, I thought it was an impossible goal I would never achieve. After all, I had much better things to do that didn't require me to pause and think about the present moment, and I thought those things would put me ahead of the game. What I didn't realize back then was that learning to pause and focus on what was going on in the present moment -- without judgment! -- would allow me to be more productive, happier, and more fulfilled in what I was doing. Mindfulness helped pave my way toward a better present and future, and I have no doubt that it can help you do the same!
Mindfulness has become very popular in the past few years, particularly after large companies such as Google and ebay started using it to benefit their business by teaching it to their employees. Google took it a step further and has a program called “Search Inside Yourself” that is helping its employees learn and practice mindfulness. The idea behind it is that we can improve our emotional intelligence by utilizing mindfulness and neuroscience. Basically, as humans, we perform better if we are aware of and able to grow our emotional intelligence, which is broken into five sections: self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and leadership.
Many scientists have also provided evidence that practicing mindfulness can actually lead to stronger connections in the brain that will eventually change the structure of the brain. Yes, it sounds kind of crazy, but it’s called “neuroplasticity.” It is a hot topic in the field right now and it is helping millions of people become more and more mindful.
If I told you that you could improve your life and reduce your stress and anxiety by working with one of our therapists, would you consider it? Even for one or two sessions? I am hoping that by the time you are done reading about the ways that mindfulness can help improve your life, you might consider making the investment in yourself. But first, let’s dive right into how mindfulness can help you feel better!
# 1 Mindfulness Helps Create a Clear Direction For Your Life with Greater Passion
If you are feeling lost and unsure about which direction to take or if you feel that you know the direction, but are currently paralyzed by your fears, then you might want to consider working with one of our therapists using mindfulness. One challenge many of us face is getting lost in our thoughts and feelings whenever we think about future plans, our true desires, and how we can achieve those goals. You know when you feel like thoughts are swirling around in your brain, but you can’t make sense of them? We don't allow ourselves to trust that when we relax our minds and listen to ourselves and our wishes without the many life distractions that are in our way, we might actually find the answers to our questions.
Your therapist can provide you with the insight and support to find and stay on your path of awakening to your authentic self so you can find out what you were truly meant to do. In order for you to be able to find your authentic self, your therapist will help you declutter the thoughts that are sometimes toxic and unproductive and help you pave your way to cultivating a mindfulness practice where you can learn to notice and effectively clear your mind. This gives way for attention and intention to emerge. As you become more present and aware of your thoughts, you will learn to redirect those thoughts to make room for more positive and constructive ones.
Throughout the process of working with your therapist, you will begin to engage in a more positive mode of thinking and be able to let go of the distracting thoughts that prevented you from achieving your goal. As you become more present and able to achieve your desired goals, you will also be on your way to a more joyous and fulfilled state of being.
#2 You Will Learn how To Express Your Inner Strengths and Unique Abilities
Many of us tend to look at our own qualities as flaws or imperfections, but we look at other people’s qualities as unique abilities or successes. With the help of your therapist, you will develop an awareness of your strengths and unique abilities and invest your energy and time focusing on these traits -- instead of constantly dwelling on your weaknesses or perceived flaws. Furthermore, your therapist will help you realize that in every moment there are opportunities for change and growth.
Learning to express inner strength and unique abilities will help you feel better about who you are and help you develop true confidence and self-esteem. When you are younger -- if you are lucky -- you have parents, teachers, and coaches that help cultivate these qualities and build your self-esteem. However, as we become adults, we are often left feeling lost. It can feel selfish and indulgent to think too much about your good qualities, what separates you from your peers. This is where a professional can help. Investing in yourself is never a waste of time.
The incredible thing about the practice of mindfulness is that the more you practice, the more those behaviors become your default and your habits become something that serve rather than something that harms you. Your therapist will also provide you with practical tips, techniques, and skills that will support you in making lasting, meaningful change in your life.
#3 Mindfulness Helps You Find Joy in Everything You Do
In life we don't always do things that we want or love to do, but sometimes these can lead us to other things that are more meaningful. Think about something you did that you didn't want to do because you had something else better to do.
One example that comes to mind for me is when Shiloh, my 10-year-old daughter, asked me to play the game Guess Who with her. Of course, I wanted to play with her for as long as I could, but it just so happened, I had a long list of things to do that day, including cleaning the kitchen and finish working on an important project. However, I looked Shiloh in the eyes and said I would love to play with her. I made a conscious decision that since I was having special time with her, I would be fully invested and committed to what we were doing. I got into the game and we ended up playing for almost an hour. At one point, I looked up and we were both laughing so hard and she was looking at me with so much love. It reminded me how fun and innocent it is to be a child, and I realized how rewarding and redeeming it was for me to relish in my role as her mother. I truly enjoyed being in the moment and playing with this beautiful child of mine and sharing such important time.
The kitchen and my other work waited, and I don’t regret that time we spent together. It sounds simple when I outline it like that, but the number of times a day we prioritize the “wrong” tasks on our lists will become more evident as you practice mindfulness. A therapist can help you decipher what you need to do versus what you want to do versus what will bring you both temporary and long-lasting joy.
# 4 Mindfulness Helps You Connect With Your Inner Wisdom
You might be reading this and asking, “What is inner wisdom?” Inner wisdom is defined differently by different people, but it’s essentially something inside us all that is pure. It’s a light inside that we don't always see. Inner wisdom is also sensory versus all the loud voices we hear and rules we obey. Some refer to it as intuition. I remember thinking that some people have a more developed intuition than others -- which to me, meant they had a very special ability. While some people do possess a very developed intuition and might have so-called special abilities, I have come to believe and witness that with practice, we can all become more intuitive and better connected to our inner wisdom. This is something a therapist can help you cultivate.
Feeling more connected to yourself will enable you to see what stands in your way more clearly and find/identify the appropriate solutions more easily. With the help of your therapist, you will be able to separate your rational voices from the emotional ones and access your inner voice that is beautiful and pure. This might sound like an impossible task, but with practice, you will be able to get there and find that you can live and lead a happier, more fulfilled lifestyle.
I remember when I started working with a mindfulness coach over 10 years ago, I kept telling him that I had to get more and more training so I could be as helpful as I could to my own clients. His response to me was this: “Your trunk is wide and full of information. From now on, you must focus on using what you know already and more importantly the skills and knowledge you possess that you never believed you had before.” These words stayed with me for a long time. I realized that when I was first working with clients, I spent hours and hours trying to find the answers to what they were going through, but always doubted my own intuition. As a new therapist, these doubts were probably normal, but what my coach helped me do more of was allow and trust my inner unique abilities to be used and expressed.
Providing therapy for my clients after that was a lot more enjoyable for me and more effective for my clients. I found that by making true meaningful connections with people, I was able to experience life in a much more authentic way. More importantly, by demonstrating to my clients that I was present, I was able to connect with them and help them in new ways. I finally learned to trust that my education and skills were enough -- and not just enough, but incredible tools to share that bring me much joy.
# 5 Mindfulness Helps You Achieve Optimum Physical Health
There is much evidence for the positive physical and health benefits mindfulness brings. There is a reason so many people are drawn to the wonderful world of mindfulness. A study by Remmers et al. (2016) found that mindfulness can help alleviate stress through improving emotion regulation, leading to a better mood and better ability to handle situations. Many other studies help support this finding by stating that when individuals induce a state of relaxation achieved through mindfulness, the benefits include higher brain functioning, increased immune function, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and increased awareness, attention and focus.
One of my most favorite experts in mindfulness, Dr. Daniel Siegel, published one of the first books ever to integrate neuroscience research with mindfulness. In his groundbreaking book he shows readers how personal awareness and attunement can stimulate emotional circuits in the brain, leading to a host of physiological benefits and improved cardiac and immune function.
It’s easy to put your physical health and your mental health into separate boxes in your mind, but when you realize just how connected they are, it will change your life for the better. Oftentimes, investing in your mental health is a vital step to improving your physical health.
The most important thing to take from working with your therapist is that it is possible to be fully present, fully engaged in life, and live the authentic life that you want to live. Your life can be full of purpose and you can finish each day knowing that you lived it well.
If you would like connect with one of our therapists, such as Marissa Tolero - a licensed therapist and certified yoga instructor - please book a consultation with us. Also, check out our upcoming workshops and programs that can help you develop a mindfulness practice as well. We look forward to hearing from you!