How Mindfulness can promote a healthy mind
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graham Allen Bsc (Hons) Psychology, Dip Psych, PGCE, Reg MBACP (Accred)
23rd December, 2008
Drums, cricket and reading - how Mindfulness can promote a healthy mind.
The world of therapy and counselling is increasingly using the term mindfulness with regard to techniques aimed at promoting mental focus and the corresponding ability to tolerate feelings. So how does it work and what can we do to develop it?
One example of mindfulness is meditation. For many people the idea of perhaps sitting cross legged for long periods of time is both impractical and unappealing, yet even taking a few seconds or minutes to just focus on the present and clear the mind can work. How does this help with the myriad of problems clients bring to counselling?
Meditation can be described as a mental focussing but not in a driven pressured way. The idea of the mind being a two way door is a useful analogy. Inevitably thoughts come into the mind, the door opens but also allows them out the back – they come and go. The key with practice is not to get hooked onto the thoughts. This gives the mind a chance to empty and after initially sporadic moments, then minutes and finally a lengthier period, the mind feels refreshed and paradoxically focussed.
Clients have found this technique useful for tasks as diverse as drum practice, batting at cricket, interviewing and reading. But is also the focus on the present moment that links in with these techniques - focusing in the present can result in a different vantage point on our problems. If we can sit with feelings in the moment we can sometimes take away the power they may hold over us. We can all think of the benefits of being able to tolerate and sit with uncomfortable moments in the present. For example often we feel compelled to change our mood - it might be reaching for food or drink, if we can tolerate the feelings as opposed to masking or covering them, we have an opportunity to engage, comprehend and eventually make the choice not to eat, drink or deliberately distract.
Counselling and therapy often results in clients simply learning to tolerate feelings to a greater extent and mindfulness is a technique which promotes this. In a sense it enhances an adult view as opposed to a child like one. We all face difficult and painful feelings and emotions - perhaps relative positive mental health is simply being better able to tolerate as opposed to acting out or masking. It sounds simple but like many tasks in life it needs practice.
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