Illustration by Kathleen M.G. Howlett via Harvard.edu.

Mental Health — we all have it, and now we should all strive to be more open and vulnerable about it. 

TheraPieces* is a Slice of Culture monthly column by Mendez, who has a Master of Social Work degree in clinical/medical social work.

You probably have heard of the phrase, “live in the moment” and how so much of our social media presence can make us forget that.

When thinking of the word “mindfulness,” the thought of meditation, focus or clearing your mind might be most familiar to you.

Being mindful is easier said than done.

Our mind sometimes tends to stem away from the matter at hand because of a clouded mind, an out of body feeling or engulfed in obsessive thoughts like “what ifs?”

Mindfulness is a type of therapeutic approach apart of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is a series of skill sets that helps with managing high intensive and chronic moods from anxiety and stress to even suicidal ideation.

Mindfulness emphasizes the practice of “being still and being one with your present self.” It helps us increase our ability to be fully present and activates our awareness of where we are and what we are doing in the exact moment.

It’s something that doesn’t evoke on its own; it’s something you acquire with practice overtime in order to access it successfully. 

Mindfulness can be completed in a variety of different ways. Some examples of mindful practices are:

  • Being seated
  • Walking
  • Standing
  • Moving meditation
  • Short pauses added into our daily routine (i.e looking outside/out the window)
  • Merging any of these mindfulness meditation practices with other activities or hobbies (sports, exercising, yoga, etc.)
  • Doing things “one-mindfully” or the process of only doing one thing at a time with the intention of only focusing on that one thing. This can be challenging if multi-tasking is something you do often.

The main focus of these mindfulness practices is understanding and learning not to fixate on the benefits of them, but rather focusing on the act itself with the intention of being one with your presence and stillness. When we are mindful in what we are doing, we:

  • Reduce stress
  • Enhance our performance
  • Increase and gain more clarity and insight (more clear-headed to help reduce anxiety)
  • Improve awareness of observing our own mind and thought processes

Mindfulness is something that we are already familiar with and isn’t something that has to be a special added thing in our daily routine.

We have the capacity to master any level of mindfulness that doesn’t have to change who we already are.

Practicing mindfulness in community can also be beneficial to both ourselves and our loved ones. Mindfulness is evidence-based, meaning through scientific research, it has been demonstrated to have a positive effect on all aspects of our life — happiness, work, interpersonal relationships and overall health. 

As we continue to deal with our world’s uncertainties and complexities, mindfulness is an innovative step towards the way we respond to our everyday concerns and challenges. 

Here are a few of my personal favorite mindfulness practices that I enjoy and are effective for me (You can try these out for yourselves as well):

  • Sitting in a chair with a cup of hot tea in front of the window (optional), isolated from electronics and focusing on the qualities of the tea (Temperature, flavor, etc). 
  • Sitting up and criss-cross on the bed, back against the wall, and doing breathing exercises (4, 7, 8 to be exact: How to do 4, 7, 8 breath work technique)
  • Mindful journaling! (Sitting up on a chair or on the bed and separating all electronics and using only my journal and pen)
  • Going for a walk (with or without music and if music, only instrumentals)
  • Working out at home (specifically yoga or jump rope)  with only using soft instrumental music in the background

Mindfulness is a lot more than just a way of living, but a way to live your life a less stressful with added mindfulness each day which can go a long way to making our lives better.

If you want a specific topic related to mental health covered, Daniella Mendez may be reached at dm3728@columbia.edu.

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