Earlier this month, CBS aired a segment on 60 Minutes about mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of your emotions and thoughts so that you are better able to identify what you are feeling, think more logically and recognize irrational thoughts. For women with depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder, mindfulness can make a significant difference in their quality of life and managing their illness. If you are still unsure of what mindfulness is - it is simply being truly present.
During this segment, Anderson Cooper was on a quest to understand and master mindfulness and realizes just how little he is actually present in the moment, aware of what he is doing, thinking and feeling. He discovers that major companies like Google, Facebook and Instagram encourage their employees to practice mindfulness to increase productivity and focus the mind. While at the University of Massachusetts, Cooper had his brain analyzed in order to show the actual physical changes that happen during mindfulness. He began by thinking of something anxiety provoking, which triggered his brain cells to start firing. Once he refocused his thoughts the brain immediately relaxed.
However this is not a simple task. In our world we are hardly ever actually present. From the constant connection with the Internet to 16-hour workdays, it is easy to lose touch of reality and our true feelings, allowing the negative emotions to overwhelm us.
This is often the case for so many of us. How often are you actually aware of what you are doing? Have you ever arrived somewhere and thought “Wow. I don’t even remember driving here!” That is because we are frequently running on autopilot, just going through the motions, while our mind is completely disconnected.
Brookhaven Retreat uses mindfulness in every component of therapy from eating to walking. When depression or anxiety feel overwhelming, women learn to refocus their thoughts on what they are doing at the very moment, control their breathing and use rational thinking. Each morning, women participate in reflecting upon how they are feeling as they get started with their day, followed by an evening reflection to unwind before bed.
Mindfulness, like any therapeutic skill, takes repetitive practice. Comprehensive activities, projects and discussions encourage this skill and help women slow down, focus their thoughts and manage their emotions and behaviors in both healthy and productive ways.