Mindfulness is perhaps the most often-used approach I offer to teach better control of state of mind. You might have noticed that a common thread throughout this presentation of healing strategies is consciousness, awareness, and focus. Consciousness in this sense refers to the present level of awareness you have of your thoughts, and the judgments you hold about those thoughts. The less aware you are, the lower the level of consciousness you have, and the more you are at the mercy of your unconscious automatic thoughts, judgments, and emotions that come with them.
Since mindfulness first came to the West in the 1960s, it has grown in popularity, as now has the research and understanding behind why it works. Left to its own devices, the mind wanders, and rapidly brings our attention to random thoughts and observations that are guided by our judgments and beliefs. Brain research shows we have from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, which comes out to 38 to 45 thoughts per minute!
Brain studies also show that we literally become what we think (this is no longer just a phrase from the sixties!) because brain and body responses are at the mercy of our mental and emotional habits. Depending on our thoughts, our brain/body can respond with either neurotransmitters of stress, or those of calm and relaxation. If we want to change how we think and feel, about anything, we must first better manage our state of mind and teach ourselves how not to focus on what’s negative in our life (while at the same time, taking whatever actions we need to help change it). Emphasizing what is positive (while also acknowledging the things that are negative) is a balance that has the potential to dramatically change habits and improve mental and physical health. Practicing mindfulness teaches us how to do that.