Mindfulness is the practice of ‘getting out of your own head’ and of simply being rather than constantly thinking, worrying and stressing. While mindfulness is a common part of many meditative practices, it is also an integral part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). More specifically, mindfulness is used for ‘cognitive restructuring’ which is an aspect of CBT concerned with the ‘reprogramming’ of thoughts.
How Cognitive Restructuring Works
The idea behind cognitive restructuring is to deconstruct a patient’s beliefs, their thought patterns and their feelings regarding certain matters in a bid to improve mental health.
For instance then, cognitive restructuring is often used to help combat phobias. When someone suffers with a phobia, often they will find themselves having illogical thoughts regarding that trigger. If you’re deathly afraid of heights then, you might find yourself worrying that you’ll fall off – or even worrying that you’ll feel compelled to jump.
Of course in most cases, neither of these things are going to happen. Likewise, we have no reason to be afraid of spiders – even if we do find ourselves worrying that they might ‘jump into our mouths’.
Cognitive behavioral therapy restructures these thoughts and beliefs and replaces them with healthier ones.
The first step in cognitive restructuring is to assess the nature of your thoughts and to identify the specific damaging ruminations that are leading to your health problems. This is where mindfulness comes in as an incredibly powerful tool: simply sit quietly and allow yourself to experience your thoughts as they occur, taking note of what they are and letting them drift by ‘like clouds’.
Likewise, you might assess the kinds of thoughts you often find yourself having when you are in the situations that make you phobic.
From there, you can then begin the process of cognitive restructuring. You do this first by using ‘thought challenging’, wherein you simply ask yourself how likely your beliefs are to be accurate. Are you really going to fall if there are railings to keep you safe?
A more advanced strategy is ‘hypothesis testing’. Here, you simply test your belief through exposure to your fear. If you’re afraid of speaking in public because you think people will laugh, try purposefully allowing yourself to stutter while speaking to a large audience and see what happens.
Finally, use more mindfulness as you go about your day to simply remind yourself of your new beliefs and to keep your heartrate low and your mind calm.
Meditation is something that we’re constantly being encouraged to use. Every self-help guru, every highly successful individual and even many athletes trumpet its many benefits and the research too seems to back-up its value.
So why don’t more people practice it?
The main problem for most of us is that it’s really rather daunting, obtuse and complicated. Meditation is ultimately about reaching enlightenment and an inner peace right? Sounds a bit heavy for a Friday evening!
The real question for many people then is where to start. This article will provide you with a good starting point and help you with your first meditative experience. From there, you should feel a little more confident to try it again in future…
Some Tips to Begin With
The first tip is to set yourself a timer for 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a short enough amount of time that most of us will be able to fit it into our busy schedules and by setting an alarm you prevent yourself from having to keep checking the clock to see how much longer you have – this is not conducive to meditation as you might imagine.
The next tip is to sit comfortably in a chair or cross legged. You don’t want to lie down for fear of falling asleep but you should be comfortable.
The next thing you’re going to do is to focus. This can mean focusing on your breath, or repeating a mantra (a word of your choice) over and over. This will be your ‘anchor’ and you will come back to this whenever your mind starts to wander.
If you struggle with these anchors, another option is to watch a flame. Lighting a candle and watching it can be a surprisingly effective form of meditation.
Now just ‘be’ for 10 minutes. The mistake many people make here is to try and force themselves to have a ‘still mind’ devoid of thoughts. This is almost impossible for a beginner and will lead to nothing but stress.
Instead, we’ll take the mindfulness approach of simply letting the mind wander. When it does, make a note of it and simply focus back on your anchor. This removes the stress and gives you a safe environment in which to practice directing your attention inwards. The same goes for itching and coughing – just let it happen and then return.
Try to repeat this three times a week for a couple of months and see what happens… You’ll be glad you did!
Did you know that only eight percent of people reach their goals? That's right! The other 92 percent fail within weeks or months. According to researchers, what differentiates the two comes down to one simple thing: setting specific and challenging goals.
However, this doesn't mean you should try to do everything at once. In fact, trying to reach the stars is often a recipe for failure. If you want to go big, you have to think small. Break big goals into smaller goals and start from there.
What's Wrong with “Thinking Big?”
We keep hearing that we can accomplish anything we want, whether it's saving the world or becoming an astronaut. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen. Sure, you could do it, but it will take years of hard work. For this reason, it's so important to take small steps toward your goals.
The truth is, what you need to do is to think big in detail. It's necessary to have detailed information, plans, knowledge, and skills for your big goals to become a reality. That won't happen overnight.
A big idea doesn't guarantee success. Anyone can have ideas, but only a few can bring them to life. When thinking big, it's easier to miss the small details and make costly mistakes. If you fail, you'll feel disappointed and have a hard time starting all over.
For example, many people dream of building a million-dollar business. However, they haven't yet learned how to make even $1. To succeed, think big in increments. Focus on making your first dollar, then your first $100, then $1,000, and so on.
Change Your Habits to Change Your Life
Whether you want to become the next Steve Jobs, launch a successful project, or climb up the career ladder, you need to start with baby steps. Swap any habits that hold you back for habits that move you forward.
Let's say you always find excuses to skip your workout. By doing that you'll never manage to lose those extra pounds and get in shape.
Commit yourself to hit the gym at least three times a week. Take it seriously just like you do with your job or family time. A month later, schedule four workouts a week.
In the meantime, make small changes to your diet. Do one thing at a time. For instance, you could ditch the sugar during week one, cut back on junk food the second week, cook your meals from fresh ingredients the third week, and so on.
Think small to go big, and the results will follow!