“Mindfulness” is moment-to-moment awareness in one’s personal life. Counselors and clients alike stand to benefit from acknowledging the here and now as a means of accessing their emotions and coping with difficult sessions.
Clients benefit tremendously from practicing mindfulness in their lives. A person can feel overwhelmed with physical or mental sensation that causes them to spiral into the depths of depression and anxiety.
What, Exactly, is Mindfulness?
Though this practice has been around for some time, there is no singular, clear-cut definition as to what mindfulness entails. A loose definition of the word in this context could be, “heightened awareness of how one feels on a mental, physical and emotional level at the utmost present time.”
Professionals across the industry have debated quite extensively the purpose of mindfulness and how to achieve it. Though the finer points of the topic can be a bit harder to pin down, most professionals will agree that there is a benefit to practicing mindfulness during counseling sessions.
The most common utilization of mindfulness is done with the intent of helping a person to become aware of their emotions, their thoughts and their physical sensations without being influenced by them. This helps individuals to feel more in control of their experience without allowing their cognition and physical experiences to drive their actions or perception.
How Does Mindfulness Help Patients in Counseling?
A counselor who can teach and emphasize the importance of mindfulness to their patients can see tremendous strides in those who latch on to the practice. Many times, mindfulness is taken at an “experimental” approach, with the counselor encouraging their patient to try it because of the positivity that it has brought to others.
Those who can bring their focus solely to the moment that they’re experiencing at any given time are believed to be in greater control of their emotions. Rather than being driven by their anxieties, worries and regrets relating to the past or future, they have learned the skills necessary to concentrate on what is going on around them at that very moment.
When relaying one’s circumstances to a counselor, it is easy to become emotional and experience a hurdle in your sessions as a result. People respond to different emotions in different ways, and there are some reactions that may not be conductive to their goal of self-improvement. By not allowing things past or future to influence one’s responses and thoughts, it is easier to remain on the subject at hand and continue moving forward.
Truthfully, mindfulness is something that should be practiced by everyone, across all walks of life. A counselor who is educated in the subject themselves can help a patient to become more mindful in nature. There are also ways to practice mindfulness meditation at home, which anyone can do.
Steps for Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation has its roots laid out in Buddhism, but modern medicine is beginning to see the virtue of it across lifestyles and cultures. This form of meditation is becoming more commonplace and widely discussed within the mental healthcare industry and beyond, including people outside of the industry who just want to feel more at ease in their current lives.
You don’t have to think of it as “meditation” if you don’t want to. If you prefer, you could consider this practice an “awareness technique” or “breathing exercise.”
How to Practice
Step One: Sit Down
First, take a seat. Sit with your spine in its natural alignment by gently straightening your back – but not so much that it becomes rigid. Sit somewhere stable and firm, like a bench or chair, rather than a hanging seat or something similar. Make sure that your feet are touching the floor and your arms are parallel to your upper body, with your hands resting on your legs.
Step Two: Lower Your Eyes
Next, it’s time to drop your chin and lower your gaze. You may even close your eyes if you wish to, but that’s not necessary for this practice to have an effect. If your eyes are open, don’t focus on anything in particular. Simply let your eyes rest on whatever happens to be in front of them. Sit this way for a few moments in silence.
Step Three: Simply Breathe
Focus on your breathing. Most of the time, we don’t pay any mind to the fact that we are inhaling and exhaling. Now, we are making a prominent note of it. Draw all of your attention to the sensations of breathing: the rising of your chest, the feelings of exhalation and inhalation, and the feeling of air moving through your nose or mouth. After a few moments of this, your focus may be drawn away from your breathing. Gently refocus your attention back to your breath.
Step Four: Practice Pausing
You may also feel more aware of other sensations, like an ache or an itch, during this time. Use this experience to practice pausing. “Pausing” means allowing yourself to make a physical adjustment, like scratching an itch, after you’ve acknowledged it. This puts a space of time between what you are experiencing and what you choose to do about it – which is essential for mindfulness.
Your mind may wander nearly constantly, especially when you first attempt this practice. Don’t worry about it! Instead of getting frustrated that your focus has been drawn away from your mindfulness practice, simply guide your focus back to your breath. The more you practice, the easier mindfulness meditation will come to you.
Step Five: End the Exercise
Once you feel you are ready, lift your head and open your eyes if you closed them earlier. Simply observe your surroundings for a moment and address how you feel following this exercise. From here, you should decide how you want to go about the rest of your day.
It really isn’t so complicated, though a counselor can certainly help you to fine-tune this practice. They may even help you turn it into a mechanism to help you cope with trauma, loss and mental illness as it manifests in your life.
Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy.D., Psychologist CA License PSY11660 at (949)454-0996 at http://DrCAlbright.com