Mindfulness is one of those terms that has become a lot more prominent recently. As mental health discussions become more mainstream, then this word gets put out there. So let’s take a look and dive into it today.
The dictionary defines mindfulness as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” That can be a broad definition. And that’s part of the point. There are a lot of things in life to be mindful of. You can (and should) be mindful of cars on the road when driving. You should be mindful of people’s emotions and responses. If you’re walking, be mindful that you don’t step on an animal that might be underfoot.
There are a lot of things to be mindful of. And this term has extended to mental health as well. And it’s so important! Mindfulness is being aware of your emotions, your situation, and your mental state. Mindfulness is the idea of recognizing and understanding where you are and how you got there. It’s also the idea of holding yourself accountable.
I have read many times where people will interchange mindfulness with meditation. While meditation can be a form of mindfulness, they’re not quite the same. Mindfulness is owning up to your mistakes, making a sincere apology when you’re wrong, and continually striving for improvement. Sometimes, the introspection that comes with meditation can be necessary. I’m not saying meditation is a bad thing. All I want you to understand is that mindfulness is more than just meditation.
There’s another term in mental health that people use called “grounding”. Grounding can occur with a panic or anxiety attack, or even just with intense emotions. Grounding is a way to center yourself. Mindfulness is a way to be aware of your emotions, and grounding is the way to be able to control them. Grounding works in panic attacks and anxiety attacks because it allows you to focus your mind on something other than what’s going wrong. Some common exercises for grounding include “5 senses and 5 4 3 2 1” (5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste) or the Alphabet Game (you pick a topic and have to give something for every letter within that topic).
Mindfulness and grounding often works hand in hand. You need to be aware of your situation (mindfulness) to then be able to do something about it and calm yourself down or find a way to make yourself feel better (grounding).
Both of these take time, strength, and practice. It doesn’t always come easily. A lot of times when you’re starting out, you’ll need help with either a therapist or someone who has had to work on this themselves. Then, it needs to be practiced and worked on. It takes time, effort, and strength. In addition, every person’s approach to mindfulness is different. What works for me may not work for you. And that’s okay! Part of mindfulness is figuring out what works and what doesn’t work for you.
It’s no secret that this year (and school year) has been rough on me. I had to do a lot of soul-searching and learn to identify myself in a new way. I’ve had to relearn how to use mindfulness and incorporate them into my life. As we head into the summer and wrap up the school year, I’ve got a lot of things to work on and try to improve. But I’m looking forward to it. Mindfulness helps a lot with those things, and I know I’ll keep growing and getting better. And I hope you will too. Find techniques that work for you to help you be aware of the situations you encounter.