Mindfulness has been getting a lot of attention in the media lately and is an important skill associated with both CBT and ACT. Some people find the word a bit off-putting or intimidating. But I really enjoy introducing my clients to the concept. Simply put, “mindfulness” refers to the act of noticing what is occurring in the present moment without judgement. There are many ways of practicing mindfulness. A few examples are attending to your breathing, focusing on the sounds in your environment as they arise, noticing the internal sensations you feel in your body from one moment to the next, and observing your thoughts as they come and go. None of these is incorrect. The common denominator of all is the focusing of your attention on the present with curiosity and accepting that you experience has indeed occurred. Struggling, disagreeing, and wishing it were not so are unhelpful and irrelevant. The key is to practice acceptance of each moment as it is and then letting it go as you pay attention to the next moment, and then next one after that.
Mindfulness practice has been found to lead to significant improvements on a wide range of measures, including of depression, anxiety, stress, blood pressure, and pain. Learning to be more mindful of your thoughts (as thoughts, rather than as facts) can be extraordinarily helpful in giving you a bit of a buffer between your thoughts and the emotions or behaviors that follow, allowing you to take yourself off auto-pilot when it comes to determining how you respond to a given situation.