By Gunnel Tesfa, RSW

Gunnel Tesfa is a Registered Social Worker with more than 25 years in the field. Gunnel is a compassionate, understanding and efficient therapist who continues to find new ways of helping her clients.
Mindfulness is a way of looking at our experiences that can change the intensity of our negative emotions (for example hurt, anxiety, anger). It helps us to make these emotions less incapacitating. At the same time, mindfulness can increase our confidence and sense of control over our life.

What is mindfulness?

A simple definition would be:

“Paying close attention to our physical, mental, and emotional experiences as they are unfolding moment to moment, while using a non-judgmental, non-reactive and accepting attitude toward them.”

The practice of mindfulness has a long tradition in eastern spirituality. Western psychology has recognized how useful mindfulness practice can be to address a variety of problems, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, and difficulties with relationships. A therapist who uses mindfulness in their work can teach you the core principles of mindfulness.

Portrait of a woman doing mindless exercises

Paying close attention to our experiences as they are unfolding

How Mindfulness Works

Mindfulness is also often used by therapists in conjunction with other techniques, such as CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) which creates a very potent tool for lasting change. One of the many things I find personally useful is that it teaches us how to slow down our reaction to events.

When we take this extra time to react, it gives us more control over how to react. We start realizing that often our reactions, including emotional reactions such as fear, panic, helplessness, anger, etc., are conditioned. These are often learned ways of reacting, which seem to arise almost instinctively. We don’t usually feel that our emotional reactions to events are a matter of choice.

Lightening our load

Mindfulness gives us a space in which we can examine the event and evaluate it. Perhaps we would react differently, in ways that create less suffering for us and those around us.

It can also lighten the load we carry with ourselves. This is the load of regrets or painful memories from the past, and worries and anxieties about the future.

Mindfulness can help us focus on the here and now – the only time we actually can control and influence! This practice can teach us how to bring our best selves into each moment as it unfolds, to create a more peaceful and content state of mind.