Mindfulness: The Future of Therapy

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Did you practice mindfulness today? Mindfulness is a technique therapists use to promote the practice of good mental and physical health. Mindfulness practice has been said to allow people to be in greater control of their thoughts and actions, rather than being controlled by them.

Mindfulness was first explored in Buddhism and has been spread across Western rituals. It is a process in which we are aware of our present moment experiences. In addition to being aware, it is the ability to maintain openness and acceptance of our thoughts, sensations, bodily states and environment.

Mindless states and mind-wandering has been proven to be maladaptive! Instead, keeping our minds focussed on the present moment is associated with higher psychological well-being (2010, Kilingsworth & Gilbert).

Can anyone practice mindfulness? … YES! However, it is a skill that truly must be practiced till mastered. I am still learning and trying to get the hang of it.

Lets explore 4 things we can do to be a bit more mindful each day.

1. Set an Intention

The most simple step to start is by creating the intention in your mind that you are going to be more mindful. You are making a commitment, so now stick to it! By creating this intention, you are more likely to be aware of your mind wandering and recognize that you should shift your awareness to the present moment.

2. Recognize shifts in awareness

Recognize when your awareness is shifting and your mind is beginning to wander. Correct yourself when your thoughts are beginning to spiral to think about anything but the present.

Many of us tend to think of the past or the future. However, studies show that thoughts that wander away from the present are maladaptive. It can be important to plan for the future, but maybe we don’t need to make “big picture” plans. Look for what we can control and work on presently, this will set ourselves up for the future success we desire.

Therefore, we must learn to recognize when our thoughts begin to shift and quickly learn to shift back and be mindful.

3. Listen to others attentively

How often do you find that when someone else is speaking you are already thinking of what you want to say next? How does that make you an active listener? … It doesn’t!

Listen closely when others speak, this will allow you to pay closer attention as you will truly be taking in what the speaker is saying. Just by listening more closely you will connect better to what is being said and will eventually become more aware of the responses you decide to form. Ultimately this will improve your bond with that person and your communication skills. Listening closely is an important skill for one to stay mindful.

4. Focus on your breath

Breathing is something we naturally do every second of every day without having to think about! When your present mindedness is lost, you may simply refocus by counting your breaths. Focusing on your breath can significantly improve your mind and body connection!

If distracting thoughts arise due to mindless thoughts, try counting your breaths as you inhale and exhale slowly.

Although these are just a few ways of keeping mindful, I do plan to return to this topic again. Let me know in the comments what you do to practice mindfulness and focus on the present!

References:

Hoffman G.S., & Gomez F.A. (2017). Mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety and depression. 10.1016/j.psc.2017.08.008

Killingsworth MA & Gilbert DT., (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science. 330(6006):932. doi: 10.1126/science.1192439.

Is Ignorance Truly Bliss?

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Sometimes ignorance can be bliss, but sometimes it isn’t. In certain scenarios it can be very beneficial to be aware of an important piece of information. However, in others, you may benefit from the blissfulness of not knowing and enjoying the moment.

So then why do we equate ignorance to being blissful? Think about your childhood for a moment. Childhood holds a sort of blissfulness to it. Children are unaware of the burdens and responsibilities that adults hold. Parents hide the obstacles that come along, and therefore, children can go on with their daily life peacefully. Time is a difficult and strange construct for children; as quickly as obstacles come, they go, and they are back to enjoying their blissfulness.

Although these blissful moments are there during our early lives; the truth is, not all children are fortunate enough to always have that experience. Some children grow up in homes where parents are unable to hide their challenges from their children. This can create a sense of anxiety and fear. The bliss quickly turns in to terror as the child is constantly stressed out for the responsibilities that their parents hold. The more knowledge, awareness and understanding children hold about the world around them, the less bliss there seems to be.

Does obtaining awareness and knowledge about life too early take away from the childhood bliss? I would argue yes, that it does. However, I do believe that knowledge is power, and that the child that has some knowledge of stressful situations can grow up making better decisions than the child who grew up in ignorance. When faced with future adversity, the child who grew up in ignorance may not know how to handle it, whereas the child who obtained greater awareness and knowledge would be better prepared.

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For those of us who did grow up ignorantly blissful, I find now that as adults we dream of returning to that state of bliss. To that freedom of thought and mind. Where responsibilities are taken care of and don’t pile up. When I am surrounded by children today, I find it easy to reminisce on the past blissfulness of being a child. I think of ways that I can once again experience that calm and blissful ignorance. Where the most difficult decision I have is about what movie I am going to watch.

Will we ever return to that same ignorant bliss?

We probably won’t be able to return to that exact bliss. The bliss of running in the streets with our friends and playing as though we have no responsibilities in the world; but that’s okay. With the knowledge and awareness we have, we are equipped to make better decisions and face life’s challenges head on.

After writing this article, I almost don’t feel that ignorance is bliss anymore. The child that is well-equipped and exposed to adversity will overcome future adversity and achieve bliss much quicker than the child who lives ignorantly.

So maybe ignorance isn’t bliss after all?

Let me know what you think down below in the poll and in the comments section! I’m interested to read whether you think ignorance is bliss or not.

Living for Yourself

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When was the last time you made a decision by yourself and for yourself? I can answer that honestly and say that I really can’t remember the last time I was able to fully do that. It’s been extremely difficult for me to live just for myself as I am constantly haunted by the thoughts of my decisions impacting others. Some would say that is selfless and it is empathetic to consider others when living out one’s own life.

But I say by doing that I am no longer living for myself. Instead, I am cautiously making decisions to please others and am sacrificing my own being.

A common example is of the student who graduates from high-school and is then pressured by their parents to obtain further education in a degree that they have no interest in. How can this student be successful in completing a degree in something they didn’t choose?

The reality is that we cannot please everyone and if we are going to spend time trying to please someone it should be ourselves. It’s easy to get lost in the shadows of others and seek acceptance when making decisions. This is an essential psychological need as outlined by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (belongingness and love needs).

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Photo from Pinterest

Abraham Maslow, a famous American Psychologist said that humans cannot reach self-actualization (achieve one’s potential) unless all their basic needs as outlined above are met. So basically, humans naturally seek acceptance and belongingness in order to advance to feelings of prestige and accomplishment to eventually reach self-actualization.

How Can I Start Living for Myself?

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It’s about time you asked!

Who am I?

  • First, you must figure out who you are and what you want. This tends to be the most difficult step.
  • Do you want to be an artist, a musician, an athlete, an engineer? Do you want to graduate university, write a book, run a marathon?
  • Or, maybe you just want to start taking more time to yourself and not feel guilty for doing so.

Self-Care

  • Taking care of yourself is the absolute best thing you can do!
  • Fulfilling your own needs in order to satisfy your happiness can be the most difficult step to take but I assure you that it’s worth it.

Planning

  • Next, you must brainstorm the steps needed to pursue your goals without worrying how it will impact those around you.
  • Remove and detatch yourself from others.
  • Focus on your own goals that are separate from others and how you can achieve them without seeking their approval.
  • What kind of standards must you set so that you can look back and think that you lived a life with few/no regrets.

Accept Change

  • Accept the change that comes with this new journey you are embarking on.
  • Since you will now be focusing mainly on yourself focus on adapting to a new mindset.

Be You!

  • Be yourself! Choose what it is that you want to do and make sure you are doing it for yourself.
  • If you feel the need to seek acceptance or approval then you’re probably doing it wrong and need to start over.

By following this process your happiness will flourish two-fold and you will begin to live for yourself. Although this post is about living for yourself, you will see that once you do, those who love you will be happy for you and their approval (although not necessary) will come naturally, as your success becomes the success of your family and closest friends too.

Be proud of the life you are living and begin to live for yourself & not others! Happy Friday!

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