Answers to Questions about Mindfulness

by Trenna Ahlstrom


What is Mindfulness?

These days, a lot of people are talking about the benefits of Mindfulness, but what is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means living with an awareness of the present moment, without judging or rejecting the moment. One of the major goals of Mindfulness is to increase happiness and decrease suffering.

Mindfulness practice achieves this goal by teaching people to experience reality as it is, rather than filtering it through a personal bias. With Mindfulness practice, you control your thoughts, and your thoughts do not control you. You experience reality as it is.


Why practice Mindfulness?

A survey of Mindfulness practice conducted by Greg Flaxman and Lisa Flook reported, “Parents of children with developmental disabilities described increased satisfaction with their parenting, more social interactions with their children, and less parenting stress as a result of mindfulness training.”

A separate study conducted by the same researchers found similar positive results in the parents of children who have autism. In addition, both studies reported that the parents were not the only ones to receive the benefits. The children of these parents showed a decrease in aggressive and non-compliant behavior.

Children and adolescents who practice Mindfulness experience positive results, too. Preliminary studies show that children and adolescents who practice it may lead to benefits such as increased calm, improved social skills, and better sleep.


How do you practice Mindfulness?

Many religions and traditions include Mindfulness as part of their practice. Mindfulness is an aspect of contemplative prayer, such as Christian centering prayer, Jewish Shema, and Islamic Sufi practice. Also, yoga, tai chi, and karate all include Mindfulness practice. However, you do not need special training to begin practicing Mindfulness. You can practice Mindfulness, anywhere at any time. You can even practice Mindfulness while you are at work, at the gym, or walking the dog. Many need to use it while driving their car!  All that you need to practice Mindfulness is to intentionally pay attention to the moment, without judging it or holding on to it.


How is Mindfulness practice used at Discovery Ranch?

At Discovery Ranch, therapists teach Mindfulness as part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Marsha Linehan discusses the importance of Mindfulness here. She describes Mindfulness as the foundation of DBT, on which all other skills are based. Learning these skills changes lives. When students learn Mindfulness, they learn to observe the events taking place in their lives without judging them and how to become more aware of their own emotions and thoughts during the events. This enables them to use new skills better cope with challenges.

Furthermore, because therapy at Discovery Ranch takes place in the moment not just in the office, students are able to apply the Mindfulness skills they learn immediately. When students apply Mindfulness skills to their daily lives, they learn to see the value of the skills. It is the experiential mindset, model and focus of Discovery Ranch that gives students ample opportunity to practice Mindfulness and internalize the skill by the time they return home. Many students have reported that they don’t think about the skills anymore, they are just part of their daily lives.

Mindfulness becomes a new family system. It gives them new insight to conflict resolution and how to express themselves in a more productive and cohesive way.  It builds a strong foundation for open and honest communication which creates a safe and healing environment and helps rebuild the family.