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Mindfulness as Medicine

Couch Talk is mental health tips that can benefit anyone with a brain.

Have you heard the term, “mindfulness”? It’s currently a popular topic related to mental health because of the growing body of research showing that practicing mindfulness can help us cope better with difficult feelings, like depression and anxiety, that inevitably visit each of us throughout our lifespan. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve our ability to handle physical health challenges, including chronic pain and illness.

Mindfulness is a very simple and logical practice at its essence. The goal of mindfulness is to notice each moment with all its variety and uniqueness, without internal comment or judgment. It is allowing all thoughts, feelings, and sensations you have to be noticed and then released, like watching different clouds pass by in the sky. Whether it is a welcomed sense or joyous feeling or a difficult thought or painful throb, mindfulness is simply noticing and releasing each experience as it arises. It is the conscious practice of allowing what comes up for us, to be, and then to pass on as all experiences are meant to do (if we let them).

We live in an increasingly fast-paced world and in the chaos, we easily become distracted, robotic, reactive or stuck in our habitual behaviors rather than intentional or thoughtful about living. Simply put, our headspace is often vacillating between regrets or hurts from the past or worries and yearnings for the future. Our mental resources are elsewhere, while our body is in the here and now. This is an unhealthy disconnect of the natural brain-body union which, ultimately, causes internal dis-ease. Distress held in the mind essentially puts our body into a constant state of “threat,” when it actually exists in the safety and comfort of the now.  And for health, our physiology desperately needs the ever-elusive sense of safety and connection so it can do its important work of healing and growing and restoring itself.

How do you develop being mindful? Stay turned and I will give you some practical strategies in a follow-up article.

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