By: Dr. Chi Nguyen
Mindfulness is a buzzword these days, and is often referenced as a helpful tool to manage stress and anxiety. In fact, there is a strong body of research that supports its effectiveness in helping those suffering from anxiety, depression, and daily stress. A review of brain imaging studies shows that engagement in mindfulness is associated with changes in certain structures and functions of the brain (Fox, et al., 2014). Furthermore, research suggests that mindfulness may also lessen the emotional experience of pain (Grant et al., 2010).
So, what exactly is mindfulness and how does one practice it? The focus of mindfulness techniques is to bring awareness to the present moment, and have an attitude of openness and acceptance. Awareness allows you to notice emotions, anxieties, and thoughts as they arise. By noticing these things early you can attend to them before they become too intense. Openness and acceptance allows you to accept, without judgment, whatever arises, rather than suppressing it. By accepting your emotions you are not engaging in an internal struggle and will have more resources to deal effectively with the situation that has come up.
Below are some ways to practice mindfulness:
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. From head to toe, notice each part of your body in succession.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness practices or other strategies to manage your symptoms of depression and anxiety, reach out to Dr. Chi Nguyen at [email protected] for a free 15 minutes consultation.