Many patients report that they have trouble managing life’s stress. They may worry too much about future events, tasks, and things that could possibly go wrong. Other patients find themselves remaining rooted in past disappointments. What both of these tendencies have in common is that they keep patients from fully experiencing the present. The focus of mindfulness practice is to retrain the individual to focus on and engage in the present, instead of a past that they cannot change or a future which has not yet come to pass. Common mindfulness-based practices include mindful breathing, eating, meditation, and mindful thinking. In particular, our patients report the greatest overall symptom reduction when practicing mindful thinking.
When we work with patients to teach mindfulness, we first determine what types of thought patterns are being habitually used. We can then identify the patient's obstacles to being mindful of the present. Finally, we work with patients to develop a plan of action that refocuses their attention on the now and allows them to live a fully present life. By shifting their thoughts away from things that would distract or disengage them and toward more positive, meaningful experiences instead, patients can gain better concentration, lower anxiety and stress, and reduce symptoms of depression. Patients using mindfulness techniques report improved relationships with their family and friends and increased enjoyment of daily activities as they become more engaged and present.