Have you ever experienced driving a car on “automatic”, not really paying attention to the road or not remembering how you got from point A to point B? People experience life this way as well, not being truly present throughout their lives. When we go through life on “auto pilot” we have a greater chance of making passive decisions which aren’t to our utmost benefit.
Events in our lives, thoughts and feelings, which we are sometimes only minimally aware of, cause us to act based on old thought patterns, which most times do not help us, but rather make the situation and our reaction to it much worse, without understanding out what happened.
When we are made aware of our thoughts and feelings (emotional and physical) we are allowing ourselves to make better, clearer decisions. We must also delve into our old thinking and behavioral patterns in order to understand how they caused us to feel stress, anxiety and depression.
The goal of mindfulness is to increase our ability for self-awareness and to pay attention to ourselves, so we can consciously make decisions instead of out of habit. We become aware by exercising our ability to be conscious of a point of concentration at any given moment and to keep this consciousness as the point of concentration moves from place to place.
One of the leading Western figures of mindfulness, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.
Mindfulness and other Eastern schools of thought focus the importance on the “now” and not on the past. In mindfulness a person does not try to understand what factors lead to his or her problems but rather eases the person’s symptoms by exercising their conscious. Much like one exercises to be in shape physically, mindfulness is an exercise for mental well-being, with the belief that one should “Be your own therapist”.
Mindfulness believes that thoughts and feelings are not “true” and they are never able to perfectly encompass a person’s true self, but rather only passing, fleeting feelings and thoughts. Instead of focusing on what was or what will be, mindfulness teaches to focus on what is and to accept it.
Mindfulness is an experiential treatment, wherein the patient is coached by their therapist. Techniques, such as focused breathing, are used to allow the patient to experience what is meant by focusing on the here-and-now. Mindfulness takes a very open and accepting approach, with its main therapeutic focus being self-acceptance and satisfaction with oneself.
Mindfulness allows a person to change his or her relationship with their thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. In turn the person is then able to change their relationship with themselves, their surroundings and situations which would have normally caused depression, anxiety or guilt.