Mindfulness is a process that leads to a mental state characterized by nonjudgmental awareness of the present experiences, such as sensations, thoughts, bodily states, and the environment. It enables us to distance ourselves from our thoughts and feelings without labeling them as good or bad.
Anxiety is the mind and body's reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It's the sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety helps us stay alert and aware, but for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, it feels far from normal - it can be completely debilitating.
An anxious person will report an unreasonable exaggeration of threats, repetitive negative thinking, hyper-arousal, and a strong identification with fear. The fight-or-flight response kicks into overdrive.
By focusing our attention on the present moment, mindfulness counteracts rumination and worrying. Worrying about the future (e.g. I better remember to pay those bills and clean my house this weekend) and ruminating about the past (e.g., I should have done this rather than that) are generally maladaptive thinking processes. Mindfulness can be an important tool for helping us to better focus on the present moment.
Mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness teaches us how to respond to stress with awareness of what is happening in the present moment, rather than simply acting instinctively, unaware of what emotions or motives may be driving that decision. By teaching awareness for one's physical and mental state in the moment, mindfulness allows for more adaptive reactions to difficult situations.
Beyond Blue states:
“The research tells us that practising mindfulness does have some benefits for mental health wellbeing and for managing depression and anxiety. It is also helpful when it comes to managing some long-term physical conditions, helping the patient to better deal with pain or discomfort.
Many people who practise mindfulness report a number of tangible benefits, such as:
- Improved memory
- Better concentration
- More flexibility in their thinking
- Greater ability to focus
- Less rumination (when the mind gets over chatty!)
- Better stress management
- Higher satisfaction with relationships and quality of life