Increasing our ability to be mindful throughout our day-to-day lives is extremely beneficial. Research into mindfulness has shown that there are many benefits that can result from a regular mindfulness practice. These include reductions in stress, anxiety and depression, among others. One way to understand how mindfulness is helpful is to learn about how it can change our relationship with our thoughts.
Thoughts are involved in many of our distressing experiences because thoughts tend to take us out of the present moment and into imaginary scenarios that trigger upsetting emotions. For most of us, much of our thinking is taken up with worrying about the future, dwelling in the past, or ruminating about people who aren’t present. A further problem can be noticed when we realize that these unhelpful thought-habits come with a painful emotional charge. If we get hit by enough of these painful emotions on a regular basis, then we can start to experience anxiety, depression or other types of enduring distress.
So, what can we do to break these unhelpful thought-habits? One way we can do this is by taking brief, mindful “thought-breaks” throughout the day. This involves guiding our attention out of our minds and into our senses. For instance, we can notice the felt sensations of our breath as we inhale and exhale. We can pay attention to different physical sensations in our body. We can observe sights or sounds in our environment. This can be done for as long as you want, but it doesn’t need to take longer than a minute. By taking these thought-breaks regularly each day, we can start to train our attention away from unhelpful and upsetting thought-habits and toward a greater sense of security and wellness that is found in our awareness of the present moment.