The Edge We Reduce with Mindfulness

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If you’re so mindful, why do you get upset?

This is a question I often hear. Not because I’m always upset; there are many times that I feel calm…happy…relaxed…or just plain satisfied for this to be true. But, still, this is a question that seems to pop out of others’ mouths when I begin to show displeasure or agitation.

This reaction to the emotional displays of those who practice mindfulness just might be the curse of mindfulness. Not actually a curse of mindfulness, itself, but a curse for what many people seem to believe mindfulness, or a mindfulness practitioner, might experience.

To their minds eye, someone who practices mindfulness is always completely calm. When the blood pressure of a mindfulness practitioner is taken, it must always reflect tranquility. Apparently, they never have any problems. Ever. They live a stress-free life. Right?

WHAT??? Who said that?

This presumption is simply not true. Not one little bit. Fugetaboutit!

In all the research, all the studies, and of all the people who have spent so many hours reading and studying, never have I ever seen anything that even presumes that a life of mindfulness practice will result in a problem-free, stress-free life.

So, let’s review. What exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the secular practice of paying attention to what is going on right in that particular moment in time. It’s paying attention in a special way so that you are aware of your thoughts and emotions, and how they are physically displaying themselves. Mindfulness also means placing no judgment on those thoughts or feelings you might be having, and just being aware of them.

Scientific research supports the fact that mindfulness strategies have resulted in many benefits, among them being increased or improved empathy for self and others, focus and attention, and overall health and well-being. And, at the same time, it has been proven to decrease emotional reactivity, rumination, stress, and anxiety. While mindfulness does not actually help you avoid encounters with problems, it does give you the tools to better manage life’s sometimes overwhelming ups and downs. And this, without a doubt, is worth its weight in gold.

Does mindfulness mean I will never be upset, frustrated, short-tempered, or angry? No, but it does mean that I will have strategies at hand to keep the minor irritations at bay. I will know how to calm myself with mindful breathing, avoid having my mind constantly yap at me by using mindful listening, and be able to fall asleep faster, and stay asleep all night, using body scans or guided meditations. It also means that when I do lose my cool, those periods of upset will pass sooner than they would have had I not started practicing mindfulness. Plus, even when it’s still hard for me, I will more easily find words of apology for those I hurt, will be able to forgive myself for my bad behavior, will be able to learn from my mistakes, and move forward from there.

Will mindfulness answer all my prayers and keep my world completely stress free? No, but its benefits will bring such blessings to my world that this simple, secular, and scientifically-supported practice will bring benefits to all.

With mindful thoughts coming your way,

Dr. W

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Photo by Phoebe Dill.

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