Written by Counseling Master's level intern, Jessie Howell, B.A.
The Mayo Clinic provides a great definition of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”
Mindfulness does have origins in Buddhism, but its purpose is to slow down any racing thoughts by putting you more in touch with your senses. Here we can argue that resources from different spiritualities shouldn’t be combined with “our” spiritual beliefs. Here we can explain some of the science behind mindfulness.
Neuroscience makes the presumption that the answer for why mindfulness is effective lies between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex of our brains. The amygdala is the part of our brain believed to be in charge of threat responses. It’s the part that’s in charge of telling you whether you need to run, fight, or freeze. In other words, this part of the brain runs on instincts alone. That’s why you don’t remember making the decision to run from something scary. The amygdala responded for you.
The prefrontal cortex is at the other end of the spectrum from the amygdala. The prefrontal cortex is in charge of thought processing and planning. This is actually the last part of the brain to finish developing. It’s in charge of decision-making.
When using mindfulness exercises, it’s believed that the exercise actually slows the amygdala down and strengthens the connection between it and the prefrontal cortex. In other words, it slows down your anxiety or fight, flight, or fawn response and allows a more reasonable part of your brain to take the lead.
Find a comfortable spot.
Make yourself comfortable,
Either by sitting or by lying down.
Just relax your posture,
And close your eyes.
Begin letting go of all of the weight pressing down on you.
Just simply be.
Resting in loving embrace.
As your thoughts and body become still,
Notice your breath as your chest rises and falls.
Breathing in through your nose,
And out through your mouth.
There’s no right way or wrong way.
Just keep your breathing natural.
As you exhale, imagine breathing out worry.
It’s natural if your mind begins to wander,
There’s no need for judgment.
Simply acknowledge the thoughts,
And allow them to float away,
One by one.
Begin bringing your focus back to your breath,
Notice the movement of your breath,
As your chest rises and falls.
Focus on how it feels to breathe.
How it feels as it flows through your nostrils,
Going through your sinuses,
As it fills your lungs, imagine it flowing deep into your belly.
Your chest and abdomen rising
And falling as you exhale.
Rising and falling.
Rising and falling.
You’re completely present in this moment,
As your breaths keep flowing in and out.
There're no expectations,
Nowhere you need to be.
It’s just this moment,
As you flow on the waves of your breath.
If your mind wanders,
Simply free them and imagine them flowing out with your breath.
Focus on the pattern of your breaths,
Becoming a part of the moment.
Breathing in and out
In and out.
When you’re ready begin bringing yourself back to the room,
And open your eyes.