By: Tim de Pass
The impacts of mental health are now at the forefront of our society. Mental health is being discussed in public now more than ever before, and we are finally beginning to change our mindset to see how important our mental health is. With this new understanding that mental health is health, we are starting to research less invasive techniques that can help improve our well- being. An effective and ingenious habit that has become popular among the mental health community is the concept of self-care strategies. Self-care involves taking the steps necessary to take care of our health. It does not have to be overly expensive or complex; it can be something minor that leaves us feeling rewarded.
A popular self-care strategy that has intrigued psychological academics is mindfulness. This technique is built upon the idea of becoming aware of your experience but refraining from judging it and simply attending to it. A study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina looked at the outcomes of mindfulness among undergraduate students. They found that mindfulness was associated with greater ability to manage emotions and a greater clarity of their internal experiences (Coffey, Hartman, & Fredrickson, 2010). These findings show that acceptance and a non-judgmental view of our experiences can have a positive impact on our psychological functioning. It was found that these students who engaged in mindfulness were more aware and better able to manage their emotions.
There are moments we all experience where we are overwhelmed and feel like we cannot handle what is in front of us. While facing our anxieties head-on can be emotionally painful in the short-term, it also gives us a significant insight into the emotional underpinnings of our mind, which helps us manage future negative emotions. Attending more closely to our internal stimuli helps us understand the context of our emotions and can potentially provide us with positive aspects of our experience. However, mindfulness does not have to be only used when we are upset. It can be practiced at times of complete happiness and still be valuable. Before engaging in mindfulness, it is imperative to note that it can raise intense emotions that can be upsetting for some individuals.
Mindfulness is one aspect of self-care that can have an extremely fulfilling outcome on our health. I encourage everyone to take a little bit of time out of your busy schedule to try it through exercises like yoga or meditation. Allow yourself to clear your mind and let the experiences of your day flow through you. Do not judge or dwell on these emotions, but simply attend to them like you are watching a television version of yourself. It takes practice, but notice what comes up for you and what you feel like afterwards. You might even realize something about yourself you never have before.
Coffey, K. A., Hartman, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010). Deconstructing Mindfulness and Constructing Mental Health: Understanding Mindfulness and its Mechanisms of Action. Mindfulness, 1(4), 235-253.