The latest ‘it’ word. Everyone has been talking about mindfulness for a while now, but why has it lasted so long? The latest craze tends to come and then fade out, but mindfulness hasn’t done that.
There’s good reason: it works!
For all kinds of mental health concerns, it is the act of being rushed away by the onslaught of one’s own thoughts that tend to perpetuate the negativity. From anxiety, to OCD, to psychosis, the running thoughts tend to be what keeps one stuck inside the mind.
Mindfulness, on the other hand, invites us to focus on what is going on right now. To stop, and look around and breathe deep, and find the now.
Several suggestions on how to do that can be found in this previous blog: Mindfulness Beads Activity Suggestions
If you’re looking for a definition of what mindfulness is, try this blog: What is ‘Mindfulness’?
How have I personally used mindfulness?
I’m going to be completely open and honest here — I have a diagnosis of Psychosis NOS (Not Otherwise Stated) and things had been completely under control for years, but I had a really rough past two years after the death of a partner. It all culminated this past holiday with a psychotic break from reality. I spent two weeks over Christmas as an inpatient at a local mental health facility. They had lots of great programming and they mentioned mindfulness and goal-setting a lot of times, but it wasn’t until very recently that I sat down to talk to a friend, and fellow Reiki practitioner, that things finally started to fall back in to place for me.
One of the things that really hit home for me was his mantra “I am in control of my thoughts”. At the time, it seemed like such a simple thing to think, but the more I started to use it, the more profound I realized it actually was.
When my thoughts start racing, I often feel like that is something I just have no say or no control over, it takes me along for a wild ride. But after that conversation with my friend, I started throwing that one simple phrase at these racing thoughts. “I am in control of my thoughts.” I’d repeat it over and over again like a mantra: I am in control of my thoughts — I am in control of my thoughts — I am in control of my thoughts…. And the more I repeated it, the more it became true. My racing mind slowed down and I was able to think only those words I was repeating. It felt like I had a shield between me and the parts that I felt I couldn’t control. Only now, I realized I WAS controlling those parts. I was allowing myself to let my thoughts run.
Please don’t think with these words I’m saying that I was at _fault_ for the racing thoughts in the first place. Mental health is a tricky beast and taming it is even trickier. So, if you try this technique and it doesn’t work for you, know that you haven’t failed, just that this isn’t the one that will work — you WILL find the one that does, if you keep searching!
Another mantra I have used since then to help me get through, after I’ve got my thoughts under control with the first one, is “I am love.” I just repeat it over and over again: I am love — I am love — I am love…. And I find that it combats all the negative thoughts that I have, especially when I’m worried that people are looking at me or whispering about me or worse yet, laughing at me. If I am love, then of COURSE they would be doing those things, because I am beautiful and interesting and full of joy! So it no longer matters whether they are or they aren’t. (One thing I’ve realized over time is that generally speaking, other people are much too worried about themselves to take much interest in a stranger, or even a friend … so those fears are generally unfounded!)
Once I’ve gotten the racing thoughts under control, then I like to ground myself with some specific mindfulness acts, like something from the Activity Suggestions. The one I use most is #1: Take note of 2 thins you can see, 2 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear,2 things you can touch, 2 most prominent thoughts right now. I find that this activity brings me down into my body by connecting with all of my senses. I find it very calming. And it also roots me in my current situation, whether that is standing in line at the DMV, or at the beach with family, or out for the night with friends.
Being present and aware is the best way to enjoy any experience and it is also a good way to get through moments you don’t want to be a part of — be present, experience them and then move on.
See if you can practice any of the mindfulness activities suggested in the earlier blog, or if you can find a way to make the mantra I suggested work for you, or maybe you have found your own already? I’d love if you shared in the comments below.
Here’s to being mindful in all we do!