What is Mindfulness

Over the past decade, the term “mindfulness” has become more and more popular, but what does it mean, and why does it matter?  Well, think about your car.  If you do not pay attention to the gas gauge and mindLESSly get in and go, then you may run into a situation in which you are in the middle of nowhere and the gas light comes on.  Now it is a crisis.  If you were being mindful, and in the habit of checking the gauge each time you got in the car, then you would have seen the gas getting low and been able to fuel up when it was convenient, and before it was a crisis.

The same thing is true for people.  It is likely that you often operate mindLESSly on auto-pilot.  You get up, eat, go to work, come home, eat, shower, and go to bed without much thought to how you actually feel.  You are simply going through the motions.  You often do not notice when you are starting to get sick or burned out when you are not mindful of how you feel physically and emotionally.  MindFULness allows you to notice small changes so you can make corrections sooner.   If you have ever taken Zycam or Emergen-C at the beginning of a cold, you know how much quicker you can recuperate if you intervene early.

Benefits of Mindfulness

Mindfulness will help you transition from reacting and wasting needless energy to consciously acting and being proactive.  This makes more efficient and effective use of energy by helping you make the right decisions the first time.  You will learn to identify your feelings and reactions, step back and evaluate the options and choose a course of action beginning with the end in mind, choosing your actions and reactions to help you meet your goals.

Three States of Mind

You have three states of mind.

  • The Emotional Mind is that state in which you are driven purely by instinct and emotion, either toward pleasure or away from pain. It is your impulsive mind that wants to make the pain or the threat to stop.  When you are having an “adrenaline rush” you are in your emotional mind.  Your brain has detected a threat and wants you to fight or flee.  You may have tunnel vision, hear your heart beat in your ears and not be able to think rationally.
  • Your Reasonable Mind is your logical mind. This is the state which is purely driven by facts and logic.   Imagine yourself to be a robot, scientist or detective.  Some of us have more difficulty accessing this mind than others.  Part of developing psychological flexibility is to be able to unhook from your emotions and see things purely objectively.
  • Your Wise Mind is the mediator. It takes the logical arguments, combines them with the emotional arguments and comes up with the best choice to help you achieve your goals and feel happy, empowered or at least okay.  I always think of Mr. Owl from Winnie the Pooh.

The keys here are to first, be aware of your feelings, thoughts and urges without judging them.  Just accept them.  Second, unhook from your emotions.  Take a step back and become the robot, scientist or detective.  Identify and sort through not only your automatic thoughts, feelings and urges, but also thoughts feelings and urges that can help you get closer to your goals and being the person you want to be.  Finally, choose actions that will help you in some way, not keep you stuck.

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