By: Kenny Parmenter, LCSW-A, LCAS-A
The point of mind-body connection is to be aware of what is happening in your mind and what your body is experiencing. This could involve becoming more connected with your breath, dealing with pain or discomfort, identifying things that you need, or just getting more in touch and present with your thoughts. Mindfulness, a moment to moment awareness of one’s experience without judgement, has been practiced for thousands of years, studied for over a decade, and scientifically proven to improve one’s life. It is also defined as being present in the moment. “Among its theorized benefits are self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance and compassion” (APA, 2010).
“While it might be promoted by certain practices or activities, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.” There are infinite ways to practice mindfulness. The mindfulness practice is best when done with intention. What is going to help you commit or stay dedicated to the practice? The most beneficial practice is the one that the individual is willing and able to do. Often times, meditation and stress reduction incorporate the breath. The breath has been defined as the mind’s connection to the body, which we will explore more next week. Other forms of mindfulness include focusing on the senses: sight, taste, touch, smell, & sound, being present in the moment (i.e. fully emerged in doing the dishes: smell the soap, feel the suds and warm water, watch the clean happening, listen to the sound of the running water, ect.), utilizing an anchor to keep yourself focused. Initially it may be easier to practice in one form such as sitting still with your eyes closed while focusing on the breath, however over time you can learn to practice mindfulness while walking and talking to another person.
Acceptance is key. When I first started meditating I felt similar to much of what I have heard from others: “I can’t meditate. I’m not able to focus well enough. I can’t sit still that long.” What it boils down to is that all of those things are okay. One of the keys to mindfulness is to just observe what is happening, accept it, and respond in the best way suited for you. Mindfulness is a practice. Your brain is a muscle. The more you practice, the stronger you make that muscle. It should get easier over time. Escaping from unwanted experiences is at the core of suffering for many. Some may try to take control, whereas others may take a passive observer role of what is happening in their body. Mindfulness can help build psychological flexibility. It empowers the individual to do what is best for themself. Mindfulness may help one notice the discomfort and sit with it until they can decide what is best to do with it.
The next key to mindfulness is your awareness. Notice and work with the thinking process. Notice the things that are happening in your brain and body. How do you react to the thoughts that you are experiencing? Trace your actions and thoughts to the underlying feelings.
Mindfulness can help one learn to sit with oneself and become more intuitive. There is a belief that we all have the answers to our own problems within ourselves. What do you do when you have an itch? How can you sit with the sensation in your body or the urge to act on something? You get to choose how you respond to your own calls.
To review, the main points of mindfulness are:
- Setting INTENTION and ACCEPTANCE
- The AWARENESS of what’s going on in one’s mind and body
- Learning a skillful RESPONSE based on self-reflection