4 Ways to make your mind more mindful

As a CBT practitioner I am interested not only in helping people to feel better in the short term but also in using scientifically verified strategies to help people get better and stay better in the long term. Today I am going to talk about how you can make your mind more mindful.

(CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on cognition – your thoughts – and on behavior – your actions. One way of summing up CBT is to say ‘you feel the way you think’. But CBT also looks closely at behavior, since the way you act is often determined by how you feel.

Mindfulness meditation is gaining in popularity because this approach seems to help people manage stress, depression, and other conditions such as chronic pain. I don’t intend to explain this entire practice here; just offer you a faster version.

The whole experience of mindfulness resembles looking at the world with fresh eyes, free from judgement or comment. The idea is to hold your attention in the present moment and to focus as much as possible on the here and now.

The 4 techniques described below may sound very simple or even a bit facile. In practice, though, these techniques for managing your thoughts are very difficult to master. People spend years practicing various forms of meditation, so be prepared to find the process difficult at first.

  1. Living in the present

This technique isn’t dissimilar to concentrating on tasks. Instead of allowing your mind to wonder into worry territory or to planning your next move, focus as much as you can on whatever you are currently doing.

Practice Doing This

Even if you are brushing your teeth or sitting in a chair near a window, focus your attention on the actual experience of brushing your teeth or on what you can see out of the window and how your body feels in the chair.

2. Suspending judgement

 Most of the time you make snap judgements about your experiences without even being wholly aware that you’re doing so. Depending on the value you assign to your experiences, you label them as good, bad, or neutral. Mindfulness meditation is about becoming more able to suspend judgement and to simply accept experiences.

Practice Doing This

Try to focus your attention on whatever you’re doing – be it gardening, waiting in a queue, or eating a meal. Instead of judging the event as good, bad, boring, or satisfying, try to experience the moment fully without making any value judgements about it. Suspending judgement can be very useful for dealing with unwelcome thoughts and feelings. Rather than judging your thoughts and feelings as bad or as indications that you’re unwell, try to accept their presence and don’t attach any value or meaning to them.

3. Getting off the thought train

Another technique for managing unhelpful thoughts involves allowing your thoughts to pass by. Rather than trying to stop unwelcome thoughts or getting involved in thinking more about unwelcome thoughts, just observe them.

Practice Doing This

Imagine your thoughts and feelings as carriages on a train. Instead of engaging with your thoughts, watch them pass through the station and carry on down the track. Resist the urge to jump on the thought train and instead just let it chug on by.

4. Identifying when to ignore yourself

Practice doing this

Many of the negative thoughts you experience when you’re having emotional problems are likely to be inaccurate, biased, and distorted perceptions of reality. Thus in addition to challenging and changing your thinking, ignoring or disregarding many of the thoughts you generate when you’re emotionally disturbed is best.

For knowing more such techniques enroll in one of the courses I take on CBT. Always your coach in possibilities.