Present Moment Awareness Supports Mental Wellness
by Jacquie Peterson
In the last issue of AWARE INK, you learned about how the mind and body are connected: Feelings in your body influence your emotions and thoughts – your emotions and thoughts influence feelings in your body (review this article here).
There are a number of mind-body practices that support this natural feedback loop. Today, we’ll talk about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental and accepting way.
What this means is that when you’re being mindful, you are focusing on the sensations in your mind and body. You’re observing actions, thoughts, images, feelings and emotions as they occur in the present moment. Present moment awareness allows for you to witness and connect with the sensations you experience.
In turn, when you become mindful, you are able to more easily notice, observe and accept daily life challenges (1). In addition, mindfulness supports your mental wellness, including anxiety and depression (2).
Mindfulness can be practiced both formally and informally, through meditation and daily awareness.
Mindful meditation is a formal practice you can perform sitting or walking. In this article, we’ll get you started on a sitting practice.
You can start your practice in as little as 10 minutes, and when you’re ready, work your way up to 30 minutes.
To practice a sitting mindfulness meditation, you may sit comfortably in a chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and hands in your lap. As you sit, focus on your breath.
While paying attention to your breath, you may notice that feelings, thoughts and emotions arise. This is normal. Some people think your mind is supposed to be blank while meditating.
But once you notice, you’ll step back as an observer and allow for your experience to occur.
How do these sensations feel in your body?
Where do you feel the sensations in your body?
Do they have a color?
Are they light or heavy?
Are they telling a story?
Perhaps you are experiencing something different?
Breathe into the sensations rather than connecting with the storyline in your head. Using your breath as an anchor will help you connect and reconnect with the present moment as you wander.
Repeat as necessary.
Remember, as you notice your feelings, thoughts and emotions, it’s important to allow them to pass in a non-judgmental way. Speak kindly to yourself as you return to your breath.
If you’d like a little help in getting started, you can use this guided meditation by expert Tara Brach.
Daily mindfulness is also a way to support your mental wellness. Activities that you may often rush are prime candidates for mindfulness.
You can choose a few times a day to slow down and become present with activities of your choice.
How do your shoes feel on your feet while walking?
What does your chair feel like as you sit?
What sounds do you notice in the other room?
Mindful.org provides helpful mindfulness suggestions for waking up, eating, taking a pause, exercising and driving.
As you build your formal practice, your informal daily practice will begin to occur naturally. The same process applies as you move throughout your day – pay attention, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Cheung, R. Y., & Ng, M. C. (2019). Mindfulness and symptoms of depression and anxiety: The underlying roles of awareness, acceptance, impulse control, and emotion regulation. Mindfulness, 10(6), 1124-1135. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-1069-y
Desrosiers, A., Vine, V., Klemanski, D. H., & Nolen‐Hoeksema, S. (2013). Mindfulness and emotion regulation in depression and anxiety: Common and distinct mechanisms of action. Depression and Anxiety, 30(7), 654-661. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22124