Master Counselling and Human Services, Bachelor Education, Diploma Community Services
Counselling and Psychotherapy
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic tool.
Caroline McDougall is a highly experienced and passionate counsellor and psychotherapist. She is based in The Bayside suburbs of Melbourne and consults with a wide range of clients with many different issues. Caroline utilizes mindfulness in her counselling practice to assist clients in their journey of personal growth and improved quality of life. She is passionate about sharing with others the benefits of mindfulness practice, and enjoys empowering clients to find their own way of using mindfulness tools in order to enhance their lives.
Mindfulness is an amazing adjunct in the treatment of many states linked with distorted thinking and feeling patterns. This includes depression, anxiety, and self-harming behaviours.
Ruminative, negative thinking and their associated emotions are common, and tend to contribute to the development of anxiety, depression and other conditions prevalent in our selfish modern world. It is not uncommon for a person to feel unable to release these self-defeating patterns. Such unhealthy patterns can make us believe that they are accurate reflections of our reality, our health or our self-worth.
Learning effective mindfulness can help you to develop healthy mental habits, and is a profoundly powerful therapeutic tool which brings awareness of the transient nature of our thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness practice also helps us to challenge and create change in those paralyzing, unhelpful and painful patterns. Because mindfulness meditation helps us to develop healthy ways to relate to our thoughts and emotions, this helps us to release ruminative thinking and emotions such as anger, fear, guilt and sadness. In turn, this can help to alleviate the overwhelming range of symptoms experienced by individuals that are feeling depressed. These include feeling hopeless and reacting in a dramatic way to feelings of isolation.
On a general level mindfulness can simply lift a low mood. It can help adjust sleeping habits, either sleeping too much or not enough. By lifting mood and releasing ruminative thinking, it is also invaluable in letting go of negative self-image and suicide ideation. Mindfulness practice is also tremendously beneficial for people living with chronic physical pain. It is also important as an approach to managing anxiety, obsessive thoughts and behaviour patterns which are unhealthy and maladaptive.
Caroline’s way of incorporating mindfulness is based on a commitment to enhance the lives of oneself and of others, rather than an approach that mindfulness is a discipline that has to be mastered (such as Vipassana). So this approach is the opposite from it being a tool used to control life. Rather, it is a valuable self-help skill that can promote physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being.
Caroline understands that at times, a mindfulness approach to life can appear daunting to learn if we have high expectations that we should be able to immediately ‘silence or stop our thoughts’. That is an unrealistic expectation that leaves most people feeling annoyed, or a sense of failure. Caroline’s great commitment is teaching mindfulness in a realistic and gentle way, so that you can learn to accept thoughts and feelings that may arise during daily practice. And then let them go, just the same way that we let go of our breath.
Caroline facilitates mindfulness practice during individual therapy sessions and sometimes in groups as well. The emphasis is on deep breathing awareness. This can allow us to relax the body muscle by muscle, cell by cell. In doing so it’s possible to reduce stress and mind numbness or too much busy traffic in the thought processes. A carefully guided process assists awareness of the moment by moment internal experiences: sensations, thoughts and emotions; as well as external stimuli. Disturbing or irritating thoughts, emotions or physical sensations are observed without judgment. This is the same detachment used to observe the gentle process of breathing, of being completely and effortlessly in the moment.
The ultimate goal is to observe, accept and detach from learnt or automatic reactions to thoughts and consequent difficult emotions, such as sadness, fear or anger. Even the most painful emotion of shame can be softened and observed through this process of change and stillness. The outcome of effective mindfulness practice is an improved ability to tolerate and respond more effectively to life ups and downs, and challenges. Most importantly it creates a reduced propensity for controlling, numbing or avoidant behavior.
Mindfulness practice can help you to develop and enhance an awareness of your internal processes. This can occur by experiencing thoughts/emotions without ‘attaching’ to them, and
releasing those thoughts and emotions which are not accurate responses of reality, but may be subjective translations of truth.
Mindfulness can be practiced while eating, showering, dressing, walking, or sitting still. The exercise of mindfulness within completing other activities is to simply focus on the now, and make a conscious effort to let go of the past or the future. For example, if you are eating food, try to slow down the pace, and pay attention to the taste, texture and smell of the food. Chew slowly and mindfully. Walk with intention and mindfulness, while gaining the obvious benefits of exercise. With enough practice, you will gradually release the distorted thinking and distraction that can be hallmark features of depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness also allows an experience of freedom, freedom to observe life without judgment, live in the present moment, with openness, interest, and a really gentle acceptance of change.
This wonderful practice essentially trains one’s attention to maintain focus and avoid the mind wandering into many different directions. It also teaches us that thoughts are not facts. Thoughts come and go with the same flow as a cloud in the sky. So in time, we still experience thoughts and other sensations but we are not carried away and dominated by them. We just watch them come and go. As a natural flow on, with effective practice, mindfulness can help strengthen the ability to focus attention, thus helping with concentration and memory.
Mindfulness also allows and develops a healthy and non-judgmental connection to self. If this can be achieved, it allows one to connect in a less needy but more compassionate way to others. In doing so it becomes natural to connect to the world around you, but not depend on it for happiness or a satisfaction of superficial needs.
With a combination of the benefits of mindfulness it allows one to live in a more conscious, mindful way. Imagine living in a way where you are able to genuinely appreciate the richness of each moment of life. Living life with improved self-esteem, motivation, mental clarity, and resilience is definitely a life well-lived. Living with emotional balance and emotional intelligence is a quiet internal maturity that is sadly lacking in the world around us today. Be part of the change you want to see around you. Improve your sense of emotional integration and self-esteem through mindfulness! Assist your pathway to a positive relationship with your internal and external environment.
Does the idea of living a calmer, more balanced life appeal to you? It is possible to experience a flow, an inner contentment, pervasive feelings of peace, and an enhanced ability to release from painful experiences and emotions. Being a proponent of mindfulness helps you to live in harmony with yourself and others.
Read Caroline’s latest press release here.