Have you noticed yourself overthinking and overwhelmed with worry? Do you have trouble recalling your last conversation or wondering where your day went? Do you get distracted easily? Without being mindful of our emotions, we cannot manage them. Mindfulness can be defined as being aware of what you are thinking and feeling in the present moment without casting judgment on those emotions (Lozier, 2018). It is an intentional act that can help you understand your own emotions, the thoughts that may be intensifying those emotions, and notice how you experience that emotion in your body. For example, you may notice you feel anxious while thinking about the test you have to take tomorrow and experience a heaviness in your chest or a tension in your back.
Mindfulness matters as it holds the potential to shape your daily emotional wellness, relational capacity, and joy amplitude. It gives you the opportunity to master your emotions and improve your ability to return to a sense of calm (Peterson, L., & Peterson, C. 2020). As you practice mindfulness and become closely acquainted with your emotions, as well as the body sensations you experience while feeling those emotions, they will become more manageable. I often suggest that my clients create a daily mindfulness practice to teach the body and brain that they can experience distress and return to feeling calm. Oftentimes clients report feeling intense anxiety or even experiencing panic attacks before learning mindfulness. I suggest that in order to decrease anxiety or panic, they must first master this skill and utilize it daily when experiencing minor distressing events. By doing so, the brain can master a new habit that, in time, will be accessible in moments of intense distress.
Practicing mindfulness has benefits such as decreased stress, increased emotion regulation and self-control, decreased anxiety, improved focus and attention, improved social and relational skills, and lower levels of anger (McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J.,2019). Ways to practice mindfulness can include, but are not limited to focused breathing exercises, body scans, and guided or walking meditations. For example, utilizing apps like Headspace offers guided meditations for all types of emotions and situations. They guide you to more peaceful rest via exercises to reduce anxiety. You can practice mindfulness in almost anything you do when you pause to focus on the present moment. I often tell my clients, “Practice the pause. Notice what you feel, hear, and smell. What can you appreciate right now? Take slow, deep breaths as you ponder these questions.” Normally clients will give feedback on their experience and explain that it was a struggle not to think about the grocery list or the next task on the list in their mind. I advise them to continue to sit with and repeatedly bring their attention back to their breath. The seemingly simple instruction is at the heart of how to just be in the world versus try to control it. It is a powerful practice that will lead to transformative change in your life.
In life, when a triggering event occurs, your thoughts fuel a feeling and entice you to react aloud. Mindfulness is the challenge to respond, which gives you opportunities to act like your best self, rather than react, which rarely makes the situation better. It’s like a superpower that gives the ability to recognize you have a choice, allow your hot-tempered reactions to pause, slow down, and choose a calm, rational response (Peterson, L., & Peterson, C. 2020). So often rather than coping with your emotions effectively, you check out or numb the emotions with some distraction, like recalling memories from our past, to help yourself feel better. Once you let go and choose to be present, your emotional load becomes lighter and propels you forward.
In conclusion, mindfulness holds the potential to shape your daily emotional wellness, relational capacity, and joy amplitude. Practicing mindfulness has benefits such as decreased stress, increased emotion regulation and self-control, decreased anxiety, improved focus and attention, improved social and relational skills, and lower levels of anger (McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J.,2019). Who doesn’t want to decrease their stress and improve their ability to calm? These are valuable benefits that can be achieved through a consistent mindfulness practice.
- Lozier, C. W. (2018). Dbt therapeutic activity ideas for working with teens: Skills and exercises for working with clients with borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, and other emotional sensitivities. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
- Peterson, L., & Peterson, C. (2020). The Expanded Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Training Manual, 2nd Edition: DBT for Self-Help and Individual & Group Treatment Settings.
- McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2019). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, emotion regulation. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.