Are you among those people who try to live more mindfully? If you realize the benefits of living mindfully in your everyday life, chances are that you would like to explore scientifically proven ways to become more mindful.
The concept of mindfulness is becoming more and more popular these days. Although most people understand that being mindful means directing your complete attention to the present moment and living in the “here and now”, sometimes it’s hard to actually master this skill and experience the benefits of mindfulness for your physical and psychological health.
But guess what? It turns out that some forms of counseling are helpful for learning more about living mindfully. In fact, counseling can help you learn how to become aware of the present moment and become more resilient to day-to-day stressors.
Let’s discuss the benefits of living mindfully, find some research-based mindfulness techniques, and see how counseling can help us learn about living mindfully.
Why Should We Live Mindfully?
You’ve probably heard something about mindfulness and its benefits for your health, but do you actually realize what it means to live mindfully?
The truth is that mindful living is the way to focus on the present moment instead of worrying about the uncontrollable future or feeling anxious about your past mistakes. Unfortunately, constant worry about our experiences has become an integral part of our everyday lives. But the fact of the matter is that there’s no way we can change anything about our past. And that’s why we need to become more mindful and live in the present moment.
Based on the approach of mindfulness, mindful living is beneficial for our psychological well-being as it means taking care of your actions, feelings, and thoughts, and controlling your life yourself. Therefore, the idea of living mindfully means that you’re not letting your life pass by you while you don’t recognize where you are and what you’re doing. Instead, it gives you the ability to shape the world around you by yourself and think for yourself.
This means that we should all live mindfully because it will allow us to take full control over our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and determine our future by living in the present moment.
What is Mindfulness?
According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, mindfulness can be defined as “an awareness of your internal states and surroundings.” In other words, mindfulness is the ability to be completely present and be aware of where you are, what you’re doing, and what the consequences of your actions are. Therefore, being mindful means acknowledging everything that matters in your external and internal world.
Throughout recent years, the mindfulness approach has become especially popular in the field of positive psychology as the basic intervention in this area (Allen et al., 2021). Considering this, it’s not a big surprise that counselors and therapists these days incorporate this technique into their therapy sessions to help clients improve their quality of life.
That’s why mindfulness has been applied to various types of psychotherapies, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy, and trauma-informed therapy. What’s more, there’s a new counseling technique based on mindful living called mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which was found to be efficient for different mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and stress (Frostadottir & Dorjee, 2019).
Therefore, the practice of mindfulness has the potential to be incorporated into clinical interventions regardless of the specific approach. And consequently, using mindfulness techniques, counseling can help us learn about living mindfully.
Empirical Benefits of Mindfulness
Based on the latest research, the technique of mindfulness is accompanied by plenty of benefits for psychological well-being and mental health. In particular, mindfulness practice supports metacognitive awareness, which means being aware of your thoughts and the process of how you think. And this is crucial for making rational decisions and functioning optimally.
Besides, living mindfully is directly related to a decrease in rumination (Sluder, 2013). And rumination is the process of overly focusing on negative content or being obsessed over negative thoughts that often leads to depression.
Not surprisingly, being effectively engaged in mindfulness during counseling contributes to adaptive emotion regulation strategies too, such as problem-solving, reappraisal, and approval. It’s important to note that learning to be able to control your own emotions is one of the most important aspects of counseling. Developing effective coping and emotion regulation strategies helps the clients deal with their problems not only in the present moment but in the future too. As a result, they can achieve long-term mental health benefits.
Mindfulness & Therapy – Ways to Live Mindfully
A few years ago, mindfulness was generally associated with meditation, yoga, and Buddhist practices. However, a lot has changed throughout the years, and even though mindfulness wasn’t originally a part of counseling, nowadays an increasing number of therapists are integrating it into their practice.
The reason is that focusing on the here-and-now moment and cultivating awareness turned out to be a functional way to help clients realize their intrusive thoughts and address the underlying causes of their problems. Most importantly, regardless of the specific type of intervention a therapist uses, mindfulness can be integrated into the counseling sessions in order to enhance the benefits of therapy.
Considering this, more and more therapists and researchers prove the clinical value of living mindfully for various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, or insomnia.
Here are a few ways of living mindfully that counselors tend to use during therapy:
1. Breathing exercises
Breathwork is a great way to improve your physical and psychological health. This method is related to Eastern practices of yoga and Tai Chi, but nowadays it’s widely used in various types of therapies. Counselors use breathing exercises to help their clients focus on the present moment, reduce anxiety, and achieve self-awareness.
2. Guided Imagery
Guided therapeutic imagery is another proven way to live mindfully. It’s a technique during which an individual focuses on mental images in order to induce relaxation and maintain interaction between their body and mind. The routine use of guided imagery tends to improve both physical and mental health and helps people live more mindfully.
3. The Body Scan
This technique is especially helpful for beginners who don’t have any experience with mindfulness methods. The aim of this exercise is to focus on your body and reconnect with your physical self. During the body scan, you’ll have to notice all of your sensations and accept them.
4. Five Senses Exercise
It’s another simple yet effective exercise to become aware of your five senses: sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell. Counselors use this technique to help people understand what they are experiencing in the given moment, and that way, they can become more mindful of themselves and the processes that occur in their bodies and minds.
How Counseling Can Lead to Mindful Living
Believe it or not, even when counselors don’t use specific mindfulness techniques, receiving counseling still helps us learn about living mindfully. Why? Because the purpose of any kind of therapy is to become aware of your own thoughts, emotions, and actions and learn how to regulate them. Therefore, counseling has a significant potential to increase self-awareness and make us realize how to live more mindfully.
So, if you’re thinking about receiving professional therapy, keep in mind that you can increase your benefits by understanding that living mindfully is about being present, becoming aware, appreciating yourself, reflecting on your thoughts, and managing your actions. Our experienced counselors at Health for Life Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI, and Ada, MI are here to help you start living more mindfully.