We hear a lot about mindfulness in the mental health profession and the concept of “mindfulness” has even made its way onto mainstream media. We see magazines like Time and Newsweek with articles about mindfulness and ways to apply it to our lives, but is it really possible to be mindful 100% of the time? If we were, would it really help us to feel happier?

What is mindfulness?

First let’s start with what it isn’t. Mindfulness isn’t venting to our best friend about our latest drama with our ex. Mindfulness isn’t eating a plate full of brownies because we’re feeling upset that we got passed over for a promotion at work. What would mindfulness look like in those situations? Let’s take a look.

What mindfulness is:

Let’s say your ex has recently found it entertaining to shake up your world in some unwanted way and you have the urge to call a friend to vent. Pause. Experience the emotion that comes with your reaction. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself what it is that you need in this moment and what can be done about this situation. Realize that you’re much more likely to reach a healthier outcome if you react after you’ve calmed down. Allow yourself 20 minutes to focus on validating this moment.

What happens during these 20 minutes?

First of all, tell yourself that it is more than okay to be upset! If someone is doing something intentionally or unintentionally to upset you, it’s okay to be upset! Give yourself that permission because you are human and part of humanity is experiencing emotional reactions to situations. Try your best to identify which emotion(s) you’re experiencing. Are you angry, frustrated, hurt, confused, feel unheard, feel misunderstood, and/or feel disrespected? Now try to figure out what it is about your ex’s actions that elicited those emotional reactions. Now think about whether or not this reaction is helpful for you. Will it enhance your life to remain in an emotional state about this? No? Okay, then here’s what we can start to do.

Be aware of your body. Be aware of your breathing. Acknowledge that your body is still able to take air in, filter it through your blood system, and release air back into the world. Acknowledge that your physical body is okay. That you’re alive, that you are going to get through this moment, and that this moment will pass. There are many moments in life that come and that go, but this moment does not control the outcome of who you will be in the next moment. You may not be in control of what others do, but you have full control over your reactiveness. Focus on your breathing.

What are we beginning to learn about mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being in control of reactiveness. Mindfulness is taking away external power and control over our happiness. Mindfulness is peace. Mindfulness is awareness of our physical, spiritual, and emotional selves. Mindfulness is feeling whole and complete in broken and disjointed surroundings. If your reaction to this post is to tell yourself that you’re incapable of attaining this type of peace, think again. Mindfulness is not a destination; it’s a journey, a learning experience, and ongoing mission because you’re worth it. You only get one life. Do you want to spend that life being pushed back and forth by the crashing waves of your experiences, or do you want to have the ability to remain steadfast as those experiences wash past you? You will still be influenced, molded, and changed by those experiences, but they will lose their power to knock you down. Even in your most difficult moments, you will still be able to appreciate the gift of existing.

Is mindfulness just about your emotions?

Absolutely not! Mindfulness is about the connectedness of your entire body. Being mindful means awareness of what you eat and how that fuels your body and knowing when a cheat meal is in order to balance out your reward system. Being mindful means listening to what your body is trying to tell you if it’s in pain. Being mindful even means allowing yourself to cry, to scream, and to release the tension within yourself. Mindfulness is body, mind, and spirit learning to speak to each other and learning to listen to each other so that you will be able to feel more balanced.

The best part?

You cannot fail. No human alive is capable of remaining in a mindful, meditative state of mind 100% of the time. We will all need to eat. We will all be affected by a health concern at some point. We will all experience loss, grief, disappointment, and all the other life experiences out there. To live a life unaffected by others would be a tragedy indeed. You want it to affect you; you just don’t want it to affect you in a negative way. You want to channel your growth so that a bad experience makes you stronger – not destroyed. As long as you are attempting to begin your journey of self-awareness and connectedness to your environment, mind, and body, you’re already achieving something that will enhance the beauty that is your existence.

I’ll be with you on this journey.

We’re going to be reviewing mindfulness research, testimonies, insights, tips, and much more from some of the experts. Make sure you subscribe so you can stay connected as you seek to round out your life and gain the peace your mind is craving.

By Tracey L. Vazquez
Mental health professional in the DC Area
M.S. in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling