Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Mindfulness is a movement that focuses on being in the moment. It’s used in therapy to help a client stay in the present in their emotions. Many experience anxiety or depression when our thoughts are stuck in the past or future instead of the present. When we’re focusing on the past or present, we aren’t grounded in what’s happening right now, and the intention of using mindfulness is to stay in the moment so that we can be in the “now” and process our feelings. Mindfulness is the ability to remain present and aware of what is happening in our minds, our bodies, and our environments. Mindfulness can be learned during meditation, or it can be as simple as intentionally focusing on the current moment that you are living in and not trying to change it. Anyone can practice this as a way of being or as a way of life.
As people, we tend to try to change what we can’t control. If a situation is uncomfortable; we want it to change for our benefit. Knowing that there are things that you can’t change and accepting that concept is powerful. That’s part of practicing mindfulness. When you are mindful, you don’t have to change anything that is going on. You slow down your mind, listen, process, and accept your thoughts for what they are. You don’t analyze them; you acknowledge them. Most of the things that we ruminate on aren’t things that we can change instantly. When using mindfulness, you eliminate the “how,” “why,” and “what if” and focus on what you’re feeling in that moment. Radical acceptance can be grounding and extraordinarily helpful in certain situations; particularly when there’s nothing you can do to change someone else’s behavior.
Mindfulness has a place in the scientific world. It’s not solely about meditation and breathing with no evidence behind it. Science has demonstrated that mindfulness enhances our mental, physical, and emotional health and wellbeing. It improves our work, productivity, self-perception, and relationships. Practicing a mindful way of thinking and being helps us live healthy lives, decreases stress, and keeps us happy. Studies show that mindfulness can also be a way to implement harm reduction in those that struggle with self-injury or impulse control.
People practice mindfulness meditations to stay in the moment. It is something simple that everyone can implement in his or her daily life. These meditations show us that we can be an observer of our thoughts and be non-judgmental. Being in a mindful state is about lacking judgment in yourself.
Absence of Judgment
One of the most prominent tenets of mindfulness is to observe and not judge. You’re looking at your thoughts from a birds-eye view, and you are not judging yourself for what you’re feeling or thinking. You recognize your thoughts as thoughts; they are not good or bad, they just “are.” That is why one of the most prominent principles of mindfulness is acceptance and the absence of judgment. It doesn’t allow judgment to stifle you from being in touch with you are thinking, feeling, or perceiving.
Many forms of therapy use mindfulness in their philosophies. For example, in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT, mindfulness is one of the major principles that is used. In DBT, people sit with their feelings and accept them as they are so that they can process emotions. You are paying attention solely on being. While mindfulness is used in many other forms of therapy, it is frequently brought up and utilized in DBT.
Whether you’re working with a therapist in person or a counselor online, your therapist may work with you using mindfulness to process and acknowledge your emotions. To be healthy emotionally, you need to be able to sit with your feelings and understand them. That is part of mindfulness. If you are interested in seeking therapy, search the online network of mental health professionals at BetterHelp and find someone that can help you stay in the moment and process your thoughts so that you can feel better.