There are wonderful mindfulness practices that, when practiced and used over time, can help train you to live in a healthier state of being, with more peace and less struggle with tough emotions. There is a wonderful website, Mindfulness Muse that is written by therapists and trained mental health professionals and covers many of the skills that I am learning in therapy.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of everything you are experiencing in the present moment, exactly as it is. This includes all of the information you are taking in from your five senses, as well as the information from your internal environment, which is made up of the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs you are experiencing right now. The idea is to bring you gently into the present, with no part of you regretting the past or fretting over what could go wrong in the future. You’re being present and aware of the current moment, the present, and you are observing it exactly as it is, without passing judgment, good or bad. Mindfulness is just what is. From this vantage point, you can start to find some peace within yourself. Even practicing mindfulness for ten minutes a day is scientifically proven to be beneficial for the physical health of your brain, improving mental health.
Practicing mindfulness does take, well, practice. This is not an overnight solution, but it is a solid one if you put in even a little work. Remember that you don’t have to make it happen overnight, and you will still be getting benefits as soon as you start, though it is important to continue to build on this skill. Mindfulness has incredible benefits for mental health and will help your current emotional state as well, especially the way you relate to any trauma, negative beliefs about yourself or your situation, painful episodes of suffering, and stress. Mindfulness practices are often taught in the context of therapy because they are so universally beneficial. They can help anyone to feel better.
Meditation can go hand-in-hand with mindfulness, but if you’re not good at meditation, do not worry, because you can still practice mindfulness. I know that ADHD or PTSD can make meditation incredibly difficult for some people. Other illnesses can fill you with difficult emotions when you are first learning to meditate, which dissuades some people from cultivating the skill. If you are willing to learn about meditation, read about it first, so that you don’t believe you’re “doing it wrong”. The secret is that there are boundless ways to meditate, and once you learn a few, you probably will not be doing it wrong even if you meditate in a way never heard of by anyone before. If you would kind of like to meditate, but are honestly not going to look into it, I will include a basic meditation right now:
Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you are alone. Close your eyes or let them rest on a fixed point in front of you. Take a breath, slowly, until you’ve filled your body enough that your belly sticks out a little. Breathe all the way out, slowly. Now let your breaths come naturally. Place one hand over your heart and one on your belly. As you breathe in, be aware of the rise and fall of both of your hands, and how your breath moves between the two. If you have a troubling or intrusive thought, observe it from a distance and then imagine it floating away, up above you, into the air and out of sight. Have a thought, but let it go. Focus on your breath. Whenever you have a thought, return your attention gently back to the breath in your body, and the rise and fall of your hands on your heart and belly. Do this for as long as you can. If you get distracted and open your eyes, don’t give up, just return to your meditation on your next breath.
One page to start with is Mindfulness Exercises Archives – Mindfulness Muse where you will find a comprehensive guide on learning mindfulness skills. Study these practices. Try practicing them this week. Try practicing one right now. They don’t take long, and if you use them, you will feel better. I wish you the best on your journey from perpetual distraction into mindfulness. I hope you find some peace there.
By Emily Harrington, The Goldfish Painter
I am not a doctor or any sort of mental health professional. I am a psychiatric patient with multiple mental illnesses that I have survived for 12 years now. My secondhand knowledge comes from doctors, psychologists, therapists, books, college courses in psychology, and the internet. My firsthand knowledge comes from the feelings, experiences, thoughts, symptoms, problems, and solutions that I have lived through. I know myself well, but again, I am not a professional. The information on this site is not a replacement for getting an actual diagnosis or professional help. Coping skills are fantastic, and I hope you learn some here and that they help you, but please seek and continue real medical treatment if you are struggling with mental illness. I wish you the best. You can do hard things.