Depression and anxiety are some of the most common mental health disorders in America today. Over 17 million adults had a depressive episode since last year. More than 9% of US adults also had an anxiety disorder within the past year.
With such a growing amount of mental health issues occurring, it is essential to find a way to deliberately gain a sense of peace. One of these ways is through mindful thinking. Check out our guide to mindful thinking and you will find the sense of inner peace that you deserve,
What is Mindful Thinking?
Mindful thinking can mean different things to different people. The most common mindful definition would be observing your present-day life experiences in the current moment.
Thinking mindfully can also mean suspending judgment on these current experiences and just noticing them objectively. Mindfulness is also a synonym for focus on that which is the “now” of your life.
Mindfulness brings us a new understanding of awakening consciousness because we are aware of what we are experiencing right now and not worried about what will happen in the future. When you are thinking mindfully, you don’t wish you were somewhere else. You also aren’t consumed with feeling nervous about your future nor guilty about your past.
Where Did Mindful Thinking Come From?
Mindfulness can be traced back to ancient teachings from Buddha during the 5th century BC. These teachings were passed on orally for 450 years through a meditation technique called Vipasanna. Vipassana comes from an ancient Indian language which translates into “insight” or “clear awareness.”
Mindfulness is also referenced in an ancient text called Satipatthana Sutta (“Discourse on Establishing Mindfulness.”) This text outlined instructions for practitioners to pay attention to the following four foundations of experience:
- The mind or consciousness;
- Feelings or sensations;
- Your breath; and
- Your body.
Mindfulness immigrated to the US in the 1970s when American professor Dr. Jon Kabatt-Zinn created the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worchester Massachusetts. Dr. Kabatt-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to teach practitioners how to use mindfulness to handle the stress from daily life.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Research shows that practicing mindfulness brings a variety of psychological and physical benefits. Some of these benefits include:
Research shows that mindful thinking reduces the brain’s amygdala region. The amygdala region manages your “fight or flight” fear reflexes and your body’s other responses to stress. This part of the brain is responsible for negative emotions like anger or unhappiness.
Research also shows that mindful thinking triggers more brainwaves that help fight insomnia. When you are thinking mindfully, you increase your alpha, delta and theta brainwaves. These brainwaves stimulate your rest and relaxation responses.
Mindfulness also reduces your number of beta brainwaves attached to alertness and agitation. As a result, you’ll feel less anxious and be able to calm down for a good night’s sleep.
Studies also show that mindfulness can lessen depression as well. Practitioners bring awareness to their uncomfortable situations and approach these experiences with a new interpretation. This new way of thinking gives people the self-confidence to approach experiences they would have previously avoided.
Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practiced during everyday activities such as standing, sitting or walking. The goal is to notice everything that is in your immediate space, including plants, buildings or people. When you notice these objects, you can deviate from any automatic negative responses you might have to realize that there are other ways to interpret them.
Here are some ways to ditch your old negative reactions and appreciate your present moments in newer, positive ways:
- Notice when your thoughts wander and you see yourself somewhere else other than where you are at the present moment. Forgive yourself and bring your attention back to your current moment. “Thinking back/ahead” is a habit that keeps you from appreciating right now.
- If you haven’t done so already, begin to practice meditation. Meditation helps you train your awareness and attention to reach a calm state. Meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand because they both help you become aware of your thoughts and feelings as they occur.
- Eliminate judgmental thoughts. When you catch yourself criticizing something or someone, use a statement like “Spirit come back!” to help you refocus. Labeling your negativity this way gives you a second chance to reinterpret the moment in a new light.
- When you’re eating, enjoy each course of your meal thoroughly. Don’t eat your appetizer with thoughts of “what’s for dessert?” Be mindful of chewing and swallowing each bite to be fully present throughout your meal.
Are you ready to put these mindful thinking habits to work for you? The good news is that you can start today.
The next time you are faced with criticism or confrontation, remember to stop and be aware of the current moment. This pause will give you time to remember that you can choose to react differently to these mounting negative emotions than you have in the past. Pay attention to every step you make to promote a sense of gratitude for the ability to walk.
Don’t forget to check out our website for more advice on mental health and well being. Put these mindful thinking practices into motion today. Then you’ll be amazed at how well you can meet any challenge that life hands you, with ease.