The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
I’ve been intentionally practicing mindfulness a lot in the past few months because I know how important it is to regulate my own stress levels. The benefits of mindfulness have been researched and include improved overall well-being, reduced pain, and enhanced empathy.
Mindfulness is something I bring to my art therapy practice with the intention of teaching my clients skills they can use on a daily basis. For example – The 5 Senses Mindfulness Exercise to help you focus on the present moment; and Daily Visual Journal techniques for when you have some time at your desk or in the morning before you start your day.
But do these things really work? I like to know something works – to measure it – but it can be difficult to measure whether or not your mindfulness practice is helping. Keeping a daily journal and making a note of how you feel during a stressful moment and what you did to relax can be a helpful way to measure the effects of your mindfulness, but remember it takes time and repetition to create lasting changes.
In The Science of Mindfulness article Dr. Daniel Seigal states:
“Studies show that the ways we intentionally shape our internal focus of attention in mindfulness practice induces a state of brain activation during the practice. With repetition, an intentionally created state can become an enduring trait of the individual as reflected in long-term changes in brain function and structure. This is a fundamental property of neuroplasticity—how the brain changes in response to experience. Here, the experience is the focus of attention in a particular manner.”
I recently gave a presentation on art therapy and mindfulness to a small group. The presentation was being recorded and I was a little nervous. I practiced deep breathing beforehand and the 5 Senses Mindfulness exercise to focus my attention on the present moment. Once I began speaking and showing a few slides I realized I was more relaxed than I’ve been in the past when giving a presentation.
I even remained relaxed and improvised when my short video demonstrations that I thought were embedded in the slide show presentation were not. I had spent a good amount of time creating the videos and choosing soothing music to play along with it and was proud of this part of the presentation. But my disappointment in not being able to share those videos was extremely brief – I just moved right along and did a live demonstration instead.
Then, close to the end of my slides a few maintenance guys came to remove the TV so they could install it in the new office that this group was moving to across the street. Literally, my slide was up on the screen and I was talking to the group and then there was the sound of a drill behind my head while three guys disassembled the large flat screen and took it off the wall. They even asked me to have everyone move while they walked the TV out of the room.
None of this bothered me! We all just went with the flow and joked about how this is out of our control so why worry about it – nothing we can do. It was actually a great way to model mindfulness in action. I kept my presentation going until the end without any problem. This was proof to me that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is incredibly helpful – a year ago I was have been so flustered and felt uncomfortable about the situation. I wouldn’t have planned for the glitches in my presentation, but I’m glad they happened so I could experience first hand how much I have benefited from my mindfulness practice.