What is Mindfulness?
Broadly defined, mindfulness is the act of intentionally placing one’s attention on the present moment. It can take a variety of forms and is often used in secular therapy; however, it can also be practiced individually. Mindfulness practice can take place both formally (mindful breathing, mindful relaxation, guided visualization, yoga, and meditation) and informally (noticing body sensations in the present moment while engaging in everyday “autopilot” activities such as brushing one’s teeth, walking, eating, or driving). Put simply, being mindful means being in tune with the moment. A common misconception about mindfulness is that the goal is to make one’s mind completely blank or to be "good at" practicing it; however, the most effective goal of each mindfulness practice is to simply remain an observer and nonjudgmentally notice what is occurring in the moment.
Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness
People often experience symptoms of depression and anxiety when they remain "stuck" in the past or future. As humans, it is natural for our minds to wander; however, when they are continuously away from the present we may notice increased psychological distress. Several studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice is associated with enhanced prefrontal cortical regulation of affect and reduced amygdala activity during stress-inducing situations. This means that simply focusing on the present moment for a few minutes per day can actually equip you to more effectively handle stressful and anxiety-provoking situations in the future!
A body scan is way to begin to tune in to your body and increase your attention and awareness. It can be used to relax, as well as to train your attention. A body scan allows you to get in touch with your body, it can release emotions, and it allows you to experience sensations in each part of your body, without the intention of trying to change anything you are experiencing. Click here to try a body scan.
Guided Sitting Meditations
A guided seated meditation is any meditation that takes place in a seated position and involves the use of a verbal guide (versus silence). These can be meditations that focus on the breath, body sensations, sounds, thoughts, imagery, etc. as the anchor for one's attention. These meditations may involve periods of silence in varying lengths but will also have periods with verbal cues. Click on the links below for examples:
Guided visualization (also known as guided imagery) is a type of sitting meditation that uses detailed description of a visual experience to anchor one's attention. This type of meditation can be useful for those who prefer meditations with lots of verbal cues and little silence. Click on the links below for examples:
Progressive Muscle Relaxations
Progressive muscle relaxation helps engender a deep state of relaxation. It can be useful to do at night when you are trying to fall asleep, or as a useful daily practice to reduce stress and anxiety. Click on the links below for examples:
There are several mindfulness apps for smart phones. Check out your app store to find one that works for you! Some recommendations include
- Stop, Breathe, & Think (Free in App store)
- Headspace: Meditation (Free in App store)
- Relax & Rest ($1.99 in App store)
- Counseling and Psychological Services(CPS): (406) 994-4531
- Individual counseling may incorporate aspects of mindfulness.
- Mindfulness Skills Group: In this active group, we use yoga, guided imagery, meditation, and a variety of other techniques to practice cultivating present-mindedness.
- Please call stop by for more information about our groups!
- Yoga Classes at MSU: http://www.montana.edu/getfit/group-exercise-schedule.html