A beginner’s guide to mindfulness couldn’t possibly teach you everything you need to know in order to master the art. Yet even a very basic understanding can give you amazing insight into your thoughts and emotions. Here are a few quick steps to get you started.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is waking up from the distracting influences of life in order to experience it in full. For example, distractions can include things like overwhelming emotions, addictive urges, negative thoughts, and even physical pain. We gain freedom by living in the present moment without judging ourselves or our experiences, and without pushing emotions away by numbing or suppressing them.
How do I begin doing this?
Thankfully, the process is quite simple. The hard part is practicing often enough that the habit of controlling attention becomes second-nature. There are three basic steps:
Bring all of your attention to focus on one thing. Notice the thoughts and feelings that come up without analyzing them or reacting to them.
Identify what you notice, using language that is factual. Don’t add in assumptions, judgmental statements, or interpretations. Stick to what you observe with your five senses.
Allow the experience within you to occur. Recognize distractions but gently come back to experiencing the present moment.
As you learn to control your attention, you will no longer need a beginner’s guide to mindfulness. Through practice, you can create countless moments of peace throughout your day and enter into the flow of life as it happens.
What’s the next step?
Before you begin searching for your favorite mindfulness techniques, take a moment to reflect. What people, things, or situations need more of your attention? What distracts you the most? Which thoughts and feelings have you been pushing away?
Do you find yourself ruminating a lot? Which worries do you want to decrease?
And don’t forget about those positive experiences! What types of things can you pay more attention to that give you pleasant thoughts and emotions?
Grab a sheet of paper and write down some of your mindfulness goals. List the things you want to be more aware of, and why. And then get ready to take action towards living a mindful life!
If you would like some help creating a mindfulness lifestyle that fits your schedule and your personality, click the button below to ask about our one-on-one coaching programs! You’ll be a master of mindfulness in no time!
We often avoid painful feelings because… well because they are unpleasant. We numb them with substances or distract with activities or mindlessly scroll through social media. Distracting can help us get through tough times, but as a long-term problem-solving tactic, it’s pretty useless.
Why Avoiding the Pain Doesn’t Work
Research shows that stuffing and suppressing emotions actually doesn’t work to alleviate them. Instead, it leads to more problems.
Emotions that get locked away end up becoming stronger and more persistent. You know when someone tells you to stop thinking about something, and instead of stopping you’re thinking about it MORE? It’s like that. The more we ignore painful emotions, the more they are going to try and cut in to get your attention.
The 3 Main Reasons Painful Feelings are Valuable
This leads me to the main point of this article: why do my painful emotions keep cutting in when I’m trying to avoid them so much? What’s the benefit of experiencing the pain when I know it is going to hurt so badly?
Unpleasant feelings supply you with important data; vital information that you need to make effective decisions.
When you put your hand on a hot stove, the physical pain lets you know that your body is being damaged and leads you to pull your hand away, never touching the hot stove again. Without that vital information, the body would not respond to avoid further damage. The same goes for emotional pain. It lets you know when something needs attention, and motivates you to take specific action.
Even without intending to, our emotions communicate to others. Painful emotions can affect those around us as well as ourselves.
Emotional responses are so automatic that our facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice can reflect an emotion even without communication in words. For example, defensiveness and insecurity can quickly register on your face and send a message to the people around you to back off. If you are trying to make friends, this can become a nuisance. By building emotions of confidence and openness you can communicate in a way that will draw people TOWARDS you instead of away from you.
Painful emotions are your body’s way of helping you survive.
As human beings, we require human connection, and painful emotions like loneliness can spur us to take action and reach out to loved ones. Sometimes, we are in situations where we need to escape or defend ourselves. Anger and fear can contribute to taking action to protect or seek shelter. Ignoring or avoiding emotional responses can quite literally put us in danger or keep us from human interaction.
Instead of continuing to mindlessly go through life ignoring or actively avoiding painful feelings, take some time each day to pay attention to what they are communicating to you.
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness can’t be understood through reading self-help books or hearing about it from someone else. Mindfulness must be practiced on a daily basis to learn and receive the benefits from its use.
So how do you practice mindfulness?
Keep reading to learn 3 daily habits to start practicing to increase your daily mindfulness this week..
The New Year was originally dedicated to an ancient Roman god of gateways by the name of Janus (think of the word “January”… see the connection?). Janus had two faces, as a gate faces in and out, one looking backwards to the past and one looking forwards to the future. Hence he was also the god of new beginnings!
Greek and Roman mythology are one of my favorite study topics, but as you all know my TRUE passion is discussing mood disorders with my mental health tribe. So, naturally, when I think of Janus and how his two-faced self applies to our journey to recovery, I think about the importance of not just looking towards the future of 2018 but of reflecting on the previous year as well and the weights we are holding onto that could keep us living in 2017 longer than we need to.
Intrusive thoughts and memories of the past, including abuse; trauma; neglect; heartbreak; rejection; and failure.
Guilt over mistakes made, broken promises, and disappointing ourselves or other people.
Regretting decisions that led to upheaval, missed opportunities, and time wasted.
Blame towards ourselves and others, and the anger that comes with it.
These burdens are heavy; so heavy that they can become all we see. We lose sight of the light and the hope of today and tomorrow because we are so weighed down with the hurt and pain of yesterday. Getting control back over our future means looking towards our past first to deal with its demons, not ignoring the past and hoping it goes away eventually. That may work for a while, but it can be exhausting and ultimately lead to a blow-up. Spending some time to reflect on the past, the feelings and thoughts it brings up and the effects it has had on you is the first step, but it can’t be done alone or it will leave you feeling empty and depressed about the future.
You MUST combine your reflections with a soulful search for the meaning behind your life story. What priceless lessons have you learned from past experiences? How have they made YOU a better person? Mistreatment is never condonable, and suffering is never pleasant. But did you become a person who contributes to the world BECAUSE and DESPITE of it? Or has been holding you back from the true person you want to be? For those of us who are being held back by pasts of trauma or abuse, has that been robbing you of any joy for tomorrow? Are you missing something that you want back?
We can’t change the past. We can only accept that it happened, and we arrived through it to THIS moment. We have power over THIS moment. What will we do with it? We can hide from our pasts or we can use them to mold and shape a better future for ourselves and for other people in this world who need and want a better future with us. Just as we can’t shy away from the things of our past, we can’t shy away from the future. Approach today, and each day, with determination. With hope and faith that life throws us both good and bad things, but we persevere to hold the hands of our brothers and sisters and move forward into tomorrow knowing that WE ARE NOT ALONE.
Before addressing the obstacles we may face DURING the treatment process, we must take a hard look at the difficulties of even finding treatment options. Those of you who have been through multiple therapeutic attempts will know firsthand the devastating lack of valid treatment options for Borderline Personality Disorder.
If you are versed in the world of BPD, you know most suggestions include Dialectical Behavior Therapy, antidepressant medications, antipsychotics, talk therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, etc. Often, studies suggest a combination of two or more of these treatments. If you research the treatment choices online, you can usually find an abundance of doctors, therapists, counselors, social workers, and behavioral analysts who can provide you with “answers.” You’ve probably heard most of them. How do we sift through them all?
People with BPD struggle to remain with one therapist or treatment approach for an extended amount of time. Therefore, the importance of finding a doctor/therapist who “clicks” with the patient is going to increase the chances that the patient remains in treatment. The right one will be someone who can accept the client UNCONDITIONALLY, and work with him/her even in situation of distress. The more knowledge of and experience with Borderline clients the better. Just as important is finding someone who supports the theory that BP is a medical, neurological dysfunction of the brain. A combination of medical treatment and therapy will give you the best chances for success. Ideally therapeutic treatment will include group therapy as well as individual sessions.
Your treatment team should be up-to-date on the latest research concerning your mental illness. New studies are coming out all the time with game-changing information on best treatment approaches both medical and therapeutic. Even Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a relatively new treatment that your team should be following as reports come out about it effectiveness.
Keep an eye out for counselors that include keywords in their treatment descriptions, such as mindfulness and emotion regulation. Also search for treatment options under different names for your disorder or other related disorders, e.g. Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Emotional Dysregulation Disorder, and others.
The context of acceptance and stability while reinforcing positive behavior changes requires people who can be flexible with their clients, patient in the midst of emotional turmoil, slow progress or even backsliding, and must be willing to approach the many comorbid disorders we find in people with BPD, such as ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Also, don’t be afraid to try some new approaches like personal and family coaching! Many people don’t realize this is an option when seeking professional help for someone with Borderline, but it can offer the flexibility and extra attention needed to clients who have time constraints or find it difficult to leave home for appointments.
BPD treatment is a long road, but it’s a road that will take you in the right direction, towards health and joy and positive relationships. Once you start to see these positive changes in your life, you won’t regret the hard work it took to find the help that fits your specific needs.
Th symptoms of Borderline Personality are so much more than the words in the DSM. The symptoms of anger, despair, and emotional pain in the sick person are unbearable, and the pain of watching a loved one suffer is equally devastating. The fact that you are here means you have an idea of what’s going on, but it can be tough finding a professional that will acknowledge a diagnosis. Doing your own research is essential these days if you want to find out what’s really happening in a person who has this disorder.