By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International March 19, 2014
Takeaways: Mindfulness is a method for being aware of the constant chatter in your brain so you can begin to turn off the negative thinking and substitute more positive thoughts.
An excellent article in the Wall Street Journal called Conquering Fear that discusses three types of cognitive-behavioral therapy, including a relatively new movement among psychologists and psychiatrists called “mindfulness.”
In the article, Steven C. Hayes, professor of psychology at the University of Nevada-Reno, captures the problem succinctly: “Most people are struggling with difficult thoughts and feelings. But the show we put on for others says ‘I’ve got it handled.’ In reality, however, there’s a big difference between what’s on the outside and what’s on the inside.”
Left unresolved, this gap between self-image and reality can be self-reinforcing, meaning it can widen over time. Then, crises like death in the family, divorce, or job loss can act like triggers that lead to severe anxiety, panic, or depression.
Mindfulness, with which I actually have personal experience, emphasizes paying attention to the present moment and becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings without judging them. By facing your fears and self-doubt in this manner, you can see how overblown they are with respect to reality and, over time, they lose their emotional power.
Mindfulness requires commitment, time, and most of all, isolation from all the distractions that keep us from getting even a little beneath the surface of our conscious minds. We have to focus on our thoughts to be aware of what is going on inside our heads at any given time. And be patient with ourselves when we continue to think negative thoughts instead of positive ones. Just being aware of the negative thought is a step toward getting rid of it permanently, and makes it possible to change that thought by focusing on a more positive version.
For example, instead of chastising yourself for not working out every day, give yourself credit for the little bit of exercise you do during the day…even if it’s just 15 minutes of stretching or a short walk. Then focus on the benefits that come from working out more often until you find yourself incorporating more exercise into your daily routine. In the process, you’ll reduce the amount of critical chatter in your head and begin applauding yourself for the positive accomplishments.
According to Marsha Linehan, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, “What happens in mindfulness over the long haul is that you finally accept that you’ve seen this soap opera before and you can turn off the TV.”