The following is an article written by Juliette Foster. Enjoy!
Mindfulness as a Tool to Promote Mental Wellness
Mindfulness is not a new principle, as it is integral to Buddhism, but there is increasing interest in its value as a therapy to enhance mental well-being. There is evidence that adopting this technique can help to manage conditions such as anxiety, depression associated with pregnancy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mindful practices can also promote better memory, so have potential as a therapy in the early stages of dementia, and can improve learning and concentration, making it a valuable tool in education. Being more mindful can additionally foster healthy relationships, which itself can boost mental wellness. However, even with this range of benefits it is important to understand what mindfulness is and the mechanisms it works through.
When we are mindful it means we pay close attention to our thoughts, the way we feel and take in our surroundings. This involves concentrating on the moment without being distracted by former experiences or what is still to come. Another principle of mindfulness is that we don’t make any judgments, so we accept things as they are. However, we need to appreciate that we are responsible for our thoughts and activities, and that it is possible to change these for the better.
Mindfulness doesn't work through just one component; there are four that explain the way in which it works. Through attention regulation, which involves focusing on a physical object, this helps us avoid distractions. By concentrating on our breathing and other internal sensations, this promotes greater awareness of our bodies. Meanwhile, by accepting our emotions, this gives us more control over them. Finally, by changing the view of ourselves, we can acknowledge that it is possible to make changes which can have a positive impact on us.
Avoiding its drawbacks
No form of therapy is perfect, so mindfulness has its limitations. For example, if we become too aware of our body, this can heighten sensations, as is sometimes the case when it comes to feelings of pain. There is also a chance that when we use mindfulness when it is not called for that this can interfere with creativity, as our mind needs to wander to inspire creative thoughts. Similarly, abilities and skills not under conscious awareness are also more difficult to acquire when mindfulness is overused. The key to avoid these problems is therefore receiving instruction on when it is suitable to use mindful practices.
Mandala photo courtesy of http://unityinmarin.org/
Today's college students face difficulties that are very different from even just a few years ago. Dealing with things such as: homesickness, sleep problems, social challenges, anxiety, depression, and new levels of stress. One of the biggest challenges, however, is navigating through relationships. Many people will have their first significant relationship in college. This is true not only for romantic relationships, but social ones as well. Therefore, this is a time where many people are exploring new grounds for themselves in relation to others. It can be a wonderful time for self- discovery, it can also be an extremely difficult time in terms of maintaining healthy self-esteem. Many people are so focused on relationships at this point in their life, that they tends to lose focus on themselves. Sometimes it can be easier to define ourselves via someone else and their opinion, than our own sense of self. To some extent, we all do this. However, there becomes a point at which this becomes unhealthy. If someone is looking for validation almost exclusively through external sources, this is an approach that is bound to fail. It is important to develop a solid internal sense of oneself in order to be able to fall back on that when we feel that others are not meeting our needs.
Therapy is a wonderful tool for strengthening your sense of self, and understanding more deeply how you relate to others. if wondering about how you fit in occupies your thoughts, or keeps you up at night, a good place to start is examining yourself more deeply. Once you have done this, the relationships that are right for you will gravitate towards you. All of the effort that you are currently expanding, will become no longer necessary. If you have questions around how therapy can help you with this, feel free to contact me.
Photo courtesy of www.youthvoices.net
Stephen Quinlan is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who practices in Dover, NH