This weekend when I was teaching at a Youth Mental Health First Aid seminar, I met a woman who is the co-founder of a Mindfulness program which I thought sounded fantastic. There are so many wonderful training programs about mental health and wellness, as well as techniques which can be learned to help cope with mental health challenges, and this sounded like something very promising.
So what is mindfulness, anyway? It is pretty simple, actually. Mindfulness is the quality of being aware, really aware, of right now. In the case of mental wellness, it means being aware of your state of mind, emotions, body, circumstances, surrounding environment, and effects of behaviors. It might be easy to think of mindfulness as a form of meditation, a type of meditation that brings you to full realization of yourself without being overtly affected by outside forces.
There are some benefits to practicing mindfulness:
1.) Anyone can do it, because the practice of mindfulness does not require anyone to change who they are, just how they think about things. Since no one has to change to become mindful, the results may be longer lasting than other strategies.
2.) Science has been showing us that taking some time to be quiet or to slow down, on occasion, is beneficial to personal health. Part of being mindful comes from taking extra time to think and discover the self and realize what connections have an effect on us.
3.) Being present in our own lives makes people more aware of themselves, their abilities, their effects on others, and their potential. Taking all of those things into consideration gives people insight on what they can do, change, and support to strengthen the good and move away from the not-so-good.
4.) Mindfulness helps us move from a “past-evolved” thinking process to a present-minded thinking process with a future-planning ability. Most people who suffer with anxiety and depression spend most of their thinking processes dwelling on the past, what happened, who was involved, how they got hurt, and more, which prohibits healing. Being able to focus on the present (mindfulness) and plan for a better future build resilience traits and promote healing and good mental health.
5.) Mindfulness results in kinder, more resilient and innovative people. It allows us to tap into the potential that we knew we had and the potential that we didn’t realize until we took time to contemplate who and what we are in the context in which we have been in and could be in the future.
I think that the act of being present more in our lives can change the world, starting with the mental and emotional health of ourselves. When we understand ourselves and our circumstances better, we understand when we need help and when we can help others much more easily. We also become kinder and treat other people better, something that can change the world for the better.