Each day, we all make thousands of decisions. Large and small.
- “Do I snooze for five more minutes, or start my day?”
- “Should I say “fine,” or actually tell this person how I feel?”
- “Do I move to a new neighborhood, or stay with what I know?”
Many of these decisions happen in less than a second, although some require more time and consideration.
If we choose to look at the infinite ripple effects of each of our choices, we can feel overwhelmed. We may feel discouraged and hopeless. We may even throw up our hands and want to give up.
Here at the Mood and Anxiety Program (MAP)
, patients that struggle with depression often look back on choices with regret. Other patients struggling with anxiety may feel too paralyzed to make decisions about the future. Our clinicians support these patients in their journeys by discussing, practicing, and recommending the practice of mindfulness.
For many, tuning in to the here and now of mindfulness
can be a Herculean effort! This is especially true when your mind is accustomed to dwelling in the past, or over-analyzing the future. If this is the case for you, mindfulness is an effort worth undertaking for many reasons.
Benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness is generally associated with lasting improvements in social, emotional, mental, and physical health. Here are three specific benefits of a mindfulness practice:
- A creation of self-faith This is faith in yourself that comes when you've used mindfulness to make a decision, large or small, knowing that you took the time to tune in mindfully.
- A trust in self-belief Believing in yourself doesn’t just apply to thinking you can do something effectively, it can also apply to feeling you have done something effectively. If you acted mindfully, you trust that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time.
- An experience of self-compassion The self-faith and self-belief generated in mindfulness allows you to draw from an enormous well of self-compassion. This means even when you get it wrong, you are compassionate with yourself — rather than harsh. When we are compassionate with ourselves when we make mistakes, we actually increase our chances of being effective the next time.
Your internal dialogue may start to sound something like this:
- "Maybe I could have chosen differently, but I know that I did what felt effective at the time."
- "I could worry about this forever and not actually do anything, or I could do what feels right for me now and act!"
- “That didn’t go as planned, but I did the best I could.”
Getting started with mindfulness can be as simple as downloading an app or watching a video online. Apps like Calm
and Stop, Breathe & Think
are helpful. Headspace
is a particular favorite of our MAP group members. Mostly, though, it’s about making the time to practice regularly.
The (hard-earned) ability to look back at your choices with kindness, and to look forward with charity are two motivating reasons to work on strengthening your ability to focus on the moment at hand. Our patients in depression and anxiety recovery find mindfulness to be very helpful in this process.
Gina Picchiotti, PsyD is Clinical Manager of the Mood and Anxiety Program at Eating Recovery Center’s Insight Behavioral Health Centers.