Mindfulness has been incredibly influential in the way I practice as a counsellor, as I known it can have a great positive impact on people’s mental health.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being present in the moment with an open mind; that is, being aware of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and our surrounding environment without interpretation or judgement.
Often we can get caught up in dwelling on the past, and/or worrying about the future. Mindfulness helps the mind to be in the here and now, and can bring clarity to our lives. It helps us to see beauty in the present, and the many things we can be thankful for.
How to Practice Mindfulness
There are many ways that we can be mindful in everyday life. For example:
- Observe your breathing;
- Observe your thoughts;
- Mindful eating;
- The ‘Five Senses’ activity (five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste);
- Observe your surroundings;
- Body relaxation;
- Nature walks;
- Create a journal;
- Take mini breaks throughout your day;
- Describe objects to bring your mind back to the here and nowl
- Avoid doing several things at once;
- Even mindfulness showers,
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps us strengthen the connection between our internal and external worlds. Research suggests that there are many benefits of mindfulness, a few are listed below.
- Enhances empathy – When we meditate, neural connections are made to brain sites that regulate positive emotions. As a result, it encourages feelings like empathy and kindness. The more we become mindful and practice meditation, the stronger the social connectedness bonds are in our brain.
- Improves cognition – Research has shown that practising mindfulness and meditation improves the brain’ problem solving and decision making strategies. This is because when we are mindful, it decreases the direct pathway from the Thalamus and Amygadala, and increases the indirect pathway from the Thalamus, Cortex, and Amydagala, strengthening the frontal cortex which is responsible for our logic thinking.
- Natural calming strategy against stress – Stress is something that everyone faces. When we do encounter a stressful situation, it increases the level of cortisol or stress hormone in the body and activates our Automatic Nervous System. This is responsible for our flight or fight responses. Research shows that by doing regular mindfulness activities and meditation, we can decrease the cortisol levels in the brain, which has been found to be responsible for resilience and insightful nature.
- Enhances emotional health and wellbeing – When we are mindful, we can get a sense of clarity in our mind and become aware of the thoughts that drive our emotions and behaviour. A study conducted by Jain, Walsh and Cahn (2015), found that regular meditation decreases the likelihood of developing depression and mood related disorders.
- Increase attention spam – A study that aimed to identify the effects of an eight-week mindful meditation course, found that people who regularly meditate had heightened attention and concentration span.
Mindfulness in Therapy
At the start of the session, I invite my young clients to do some form of mindfulness activity with myself. I feel this is an important way to start, because it can help with emotional regulation, assist with being in the present moment, and decrease any nerves or worries that the child may have. The other benefit is that children and adolescents learn how to do mindful activities which they can use outside the therapy room.
Another activity I find really beneficial is becoming mindful of our thoughts. Sometimes it can feel like our thoughts are flooding into our minds and it can become incredibly overwhelming. One activity I like to do with children and adolescents is feeling emotions that link to a thought, writing it down and putting it in a worry a box, or in a helpful or unhelpful pile. This helps children learn to be mindful of thoughts, feeling an emotion connected to that thought, and then externalising the thought rather than gas lighting or denying the thought and becoming overwhelmed or anxious. This helps children become aware that everyone has worries and we can learn how to manage them.
Author: Larissa Watter, BA Counselling.
Larissa Watter is a Brisbane counsellor, passionate about working with children. She is currently furthering her studies by undertaking a Certificate in Child Centred Play Therapy.
To make an appointment with Larissa Watter try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.
- Boccia, M., Piccardi, L., & Guariglia, P. (2015). The meditative mind: a comprehensive meta-analysis of MRI studies.BioMed research international, 2015.
- Jain, F. A., Walsh, R. N., Eisendrath, S. J., Christensen, S., & Cahn, B. R. (2015). Critical analysis of the efficacy of meditation therapies for acute and subacute phase treatment of depressive disorders: a systematic review.Psychosomatics, 56(2), 140-152.
- Norris, C., & Creem, D. (2017). Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Attention in Novices. InCogSci.