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What Exactly is Mindfulness?

(This blog post was written by Allie O’Connor, MFTI. Allie is a therapist at our practice and works with both individuals and couples.)

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is definitely having a moment. It’s an idea that has been thrown around by mainstream media a lot, but what does it really mean? Mindfulness is so much more than just a buzzword or a trend. At its core, mindfulness is about being aware of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment without judgment.

More often than not, we are reacting, judging, and either living in the past or the future instead of in the now. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us.

What Are Some Mindfulness Techniques?

You may be thinking, “easier said than done.” If everyone could effortlessly take a step back from negatively reacting to stressors in their lives and be more compassionate toward themselves and others, a lot of problems would be solved.

It may not be effortless, but mindfulness is something we all naturally possess and it is more readily available to us when we practice, usually through meditation methods.

Mindfulness techniques are evidence-based; science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for your health, happiness, work, and relationships. For example, practicing mindfulness can help ease anxiety, stress, and depression. As Sharon Salzberg, said, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.”

Here are few simple techniques to try:

Deep breathing: When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body.

Guided meditation: You can find lots of guided meditations ranging from 2 minutes to 30 minutes or more on YouTube. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness while also practicing brief meditations, you can check out the app: ACT Coach.

Observation: Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching if for a minute or two. Do not do anything except notice details about the thing you are looking at.

How Can Mindfulness Help Relationships?

Practicing mindfulness techniques together promotes a sense of empathy toward partners, generates a deeper emotional connection, and can de-escalate conflicts.

A study on the a practice of mindfulness in couples therapy featured in the Journal of Family Psychotherapy found the more mindful each partner is with his or her own internal process and with the partner, the more aware they are of one another, and the less judgmental they are with one another when conflict arises.

Beckerman, N.L. & Sarracco, M. (2011). Enhancing emotionally focused couple therapy

through the practice of mindfulness: A case analysis. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 22(2), 1-5.