Every day, my inbox is full of amazing information about mental health! So much so, I can't read all of it. I choose the articles that look like they apply to my practice, my clients, and my perspective, and read further. Here are a few good ones to share this week.
First, President Obama publicly removed support from the practice of Conversion Therapy this week. Conversion therapy aims to convert homosexual behavior to heterosexual, and has been shown in numerous studies to do more harm than good. This is an important social justice issue for gay, lesbian, transgendered, and questioning individuals. Read the USA Today article.
Next, this CNN article explores the myth of multitasking, an idea that has been debunked by brain science in recent years. It turns out our brains are wired for one task at a time, and when we try to do more than one, the quality of all tasks goes down. So here's your permission to do one and ONLY ONE thing at a time. Nice!
Lastly, the Veterans Administration has released several new mental health apps to help those with PTSD. There's a great mindfulness app here!
Enjoy and happy Wednesday, all.
Being mindful is a term used frequently in our society today, and the scientific study of mindfulness is relatively new. From self help articles to blog posts to academic literature, there is a wealth of information available and research to show that creating a mindful attitude can help us deal with many of life's challenges. The seminal work in mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn's 1990 book, Full Catastrophe Living. The "full catastrophe" is the suffering that all humans experience in some way or another, and mindfulness teaches that we can live a full and healthy life even in the midst of the catastrophe. Kabat-Zinn founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he is also the Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society. He has created an approach to difficult emotional and physical states called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. Since 1979, over 14,000 practitioners have been trained in this method.
So what is mindfulness? There isn't a widely agreed upon definition yet. However here are a few...
"Mindfulness is awareness. It's paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally." Jon Kabat-Zinn
"Mindfulness is the practice of knowing what's happening in the mind without getting hijacked by it." -Rick Hanson
So what is your sense of mindfulness from these descriptions? Does it seem like a concept that's hard to wrap your head around? Does it seem far removed from the reality of those days with 1000 things competing for your attention?
The way I've described mindfulness lately has to do with a train. I've used this metaphor while teaching yoga classes and in therapy. Take a listen to the train meditation here.
Mindfulness does have to do with meditation and going into the mind, but meditating is not the goal of mindfulness, nor is mindfulness created only through meditation. Meditation provides a place to practice and a window into a mindful state of awareness. This state of of awareness is not a special place you visit while meditating, but rather is just your natural state of being while paying attention to what's happening in the present moment, or "non-meditation."
Kabat-Zinn emphasizes that non-meditation is what we are really after in our everyday life. Because we can't stop, sit, and meditate during the most difficult and busy parts of the day, we need another way to cope with stress. Mindfulness, then, with intentional practice, can be applied as awareness of each present moment as it arises, wherever we are. Learning to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the midst of chaos is really what mindfulness is about.
Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez, Counselor and yoga teacher specializing in mental health, substance abuse and wellness.