Mindfulness has been a term thrown around for decades and it can be hard to know whether is it a fad or a legitimate form of clinical intervention for those dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. Back in high school, I took weekend courses on mindfulness and there was a very distinct demographic joining the circle each week – middle-aged women who were dealing with depression, grief, and cancer diagnoses.
Hearing their stories made me genuinely proud that they had made the decision to take action. However, I was disappointed with how clear it was that people forgo pre-emptive action for life’s challenges. Instead, we are always stuck reacting while also managing new emotions which leaves us feeling like we've lost control.
What we all should understand is that there are many different perceptions of mindfulness and you do not need expensive resources to practice it. In a review of trials to measure the effectiveness of home-practice, there were significant benefits even without formal guidance. While in these studies, the exercises were provided by professionals, the resources exist for free to get started. Just like training your body, the more mindfulness training you practice, the more resilient you’ll be.
So, let’s look at a few ways to bring practices from Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy into your life.
Meditation: there are so many ways to bring meditation into your life. My personal favourite is when I am falling asleep or when I am outlining out my intentions for the day. The simplest way to get started is to get on Youtube and do a quick search for guided practices. Learn more about meditation for beginners here.
Grounding: this is an exercise similar to mediation that works closely with your senses. The best way to do it is laying on the floor or a bed, and notice how every inch of your body feels. Start from your head and move down to your toes. You can even do this in your chair at work if you need to fit it into your day. This is sometimes called body-scanning. Find out how to do this exercise here.
Mindfulness Moments: Try to take time out of your day to be in the moment. I often set a timer to stop, look, listen, and feel. Plus, take a deep breath. Here are a few activities, including ones from this list, but you can even take just one minute to really absorb your surroundings.
Yoga: This is the most popular way that most people I know practice mindfulness (sometimes without even realizing). It can be social, independent, and/or uplifting to move your body slowly and practice mindful breathing. Don’t forget the physical health benefits!
Mindful Eating: This is a fun one (although a little silly at first)! Not only does is encourage eating which is important for your physical and mental health, it also teaches you mindfulness at convenient times. It basically involves using your senses to really experience your food. Much like grounding, you really look, feel, and taste it. Check out this page for an introduction.
Compared to passive management, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy practices significantly reduce symptoms of rumination/worry, stress/psychological distress, depression, and anxiety, and significantly improve quality of life/well-being. If you feel that you experience any of these, I highly recommend trying Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy either casually or formally with a professional. Many programs are weekly for a about 8 weeks or, you can find a therapist that brings mindfulness into their practice.
The bottom line is: mindfulness has been shown to offer significant benefits for psychological and physical health, so why not find ways to incorporate it into your life?
Parsons, C. E., Crane, C., Parsons, L. J., Fjorback, L. O., & Kuyken, W. (2017). Home practice in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of participants' mindfulness practice and its association with outcomes. Behaviour research and therapy, 95, 29-41.
Querstret, D., Morison, L., Dickinson, S., Cropley, M., & John, M. (2020). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for psychological health and well-being in nonclinical samples: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Stress Management, 27(4), 394–411. https://doi.org/10.1037/str0000165
Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A. and Freedman, B. (2006), Mechanisms of mindfulness. J. Clin. Psychol., 62: 373-386. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20237