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What is Mindfulness Anyway?

By: Beth Tiras, LMFT, Team Leader at The Renfrew Center of Los Angeles

Posted on July 01, 2019

Mindfulness is a word being thrown around a lot these days, and placed on things such as coloring books, music and pre-recorded meditations. While mindfulness can potentially play a part in all of these things, that isn't what it is at mindfulness' core. So, what is mindfulness anyway? The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center defines it as "the moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one's physical, mental and emotional experiences." One of the most challenging parts of being mindful is our experience of the outside world and of ourselves is constantly changing. In one moment, we may have achieved mindfulness, and in the next moment we may feel it slipping away.

When running groups on mindfulness, I often hear people say they are getting frustrated that they keep on thinking about things; they can't just turn their thoughts off. Feeling like you need to stop your thoughts is actually counter to what mindfulness teaches. Our minds think; it is what they do. A mindful approach would be more about watching or hearing those thoughts, accepting them in a non-judgmental way, and letting them float by.

Mindfulness is about taking yourself off autopilot, and actively becoming more aware of yourself and the world around you through all of your senses. Mindfulness has been shown to increase attention and decrease anxiety and depression, and it has been shown to slow down the aging process. So how do I do this? There are countless ways to practice mindfulness, and I will share an example:

Focus on your breath as it goes in and out of your nose. And when you notice your mind start to wander (and it will, that's okay), gently bring your attention back to the breath going in and out of your nose. Continue doing this for 3 or 4 minutes.

Beth Tiras, LMFT, is Team Leader at The Renfrew Center of Los Angeles. A licensed marriage and family therapist, she received her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, and has post-graduate training in contemporary psychoanalysis. Ms. Tiras has extensive experience working in residential, outpatient, school, home, and office treatment settings with children, adolescents and adults. She specializes in working with people who struggle with eating disorders, trauma, depression and interpersonal issues.
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