We have written before in this blog about the ways in which mindfulness practice can support your mental health. Staying present in the current moment helps us get the most out of life while also limiting the amount of time we spend ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness is about devoting less of our attention to fretting and regretting allows us to find a place of calm and focused attention. This can lead to a significant reduction in stress, which can result in a significant boost in mental well-being.
But while the practice of mindfulness is beguilingly simple, many people find themselves struggling with it when they sit down to try it. The most basic versions of the practice involve sitting quietly and comfortably, grounding yourself in your physical surroundings, and then turning your attention to the rise and fall of your breathing while you allow thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them or distracted from your breath.
The human mind, however, is always eager to think about something—and those thoughts often lead to emotions—so it is all too easy to find yourself feeling stressed while engaged in mindfulness practice. That stress might come from the thoughts and feelings that keep intruding. It might also come from the sense that you must be doing something wrong if you can’t clear your head and stay focused on each breath in and each breath out.
Of course, if mindfulness starts to feel frustrating, you are unlikely to stick with it—and if you don’t stick with it, you cannot get the benefits of the practice. For some people—perhaps you among them—getting more information about the practice can be the first step toward letting some of the frustration go as you try to make mindfulness a positive part of your life.
To that end, we have a few books to recommend.
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
The late Thich Nhat Hanh was—and continues to be—an inspiration to many who have adopted a mindfulness practice. In this book, he encouraged readers to think of mindfulness as more than a meditation practice that one does each day and only thinks about during that time. For Nhat Hahn, the important thing about mindfulness was the ways in which it could be applied to everyday tasks. The idea is to be present no matter what you are doing, staying in the moment so that you live your life as it is unfolding rather than lost in a fog of memories or anxiety. The title, with its reference to a “miracle,” suggests just how life-changing Nhat Hahn thought the practice could be.
Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn was a student of Thich Nhat Hahn, and he is thought of as one of the primary popularizers of mindfulness practice in the Western world. Kabat-Zinn founded the Oasis Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and his many books on the subject are excellent resources for those who want to know more about how to integrate mindfulness into their daily lives. This book, which explicitly identifies its audience as beginners, is a great place to start if you want to acquire a deeper understanding of mindfulness practice and its benefits.
The Headspace Guide to Mindfulness & Meditation by Andy Puddicombe
Andy Puddicombe is a co-founder of Headspace, an app devoted to helping people make mindfulness a routine part of their lives. One of the ways Puddicombe encourages people to get started with mindfulness is by assuring them that they can, in fact, take time out each day for the practice. He believes 10 minutes of mindfulness practice each is enough to provide significant mental health gains (and the Headspace app features quite a number of exercises that are even shorter than 10 minutes). You can think of Puddicombe as someone who respects and values a practice with a deep history and who is also committed to making that practice viable and accessible in the contemporary world.
Keep Us in Mind as a Mental Health Resource
At Peak View Behavioral Health in Colorado Springs, we are in the business of helping individuals improve their mental health and then maintain those improvements over time. We are committed to personalized, evidence-based approaches to therapy, and we can help you make progress toward your mental health goals.