How many times today have you worried about something that happened days or weeks ago, or something that might happen to you tomorrow? Life is so fast-paced; it can be difficult to live in the moment. We often spend so much time thinking about the past and the future that we forget about what’s happening in the present. Practicing mindfulness can help.
Mindfulness is becoming a more commonly used word in conversations about health, but it is often mistaken to simply mean relaxation. Mindfulness is much more than a good way to relax. It is a process of becoming aware of your thoughts, sensations, emotions, feelings, and environment in a given moment. Mindfulness also involves acknowledging your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Although research about the effectiveness of mindfulness-based behavioral health interventions is in its early stages, current evidence shows that such approaches can successfully improve mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. 1, 2
One example is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a psychoeducational training for people with emotional or psychological distress due to medical conditions, physical pain, or life events. MBSR is designed to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms, negative mood-related feelings, and depression symptoms; increase self-esteem; and improve general mental health and functioning. Another intervention is Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which teaches people to move their mental focus away from negative thought patterns that may contribute to depression.
Peers, people with lived experience of mental and/or substance use disorders, are also beginning to train other peers about the positive impact of mindfulness strategies through organized programs in clinical settings. Peers trained in one such program entitled WHAM (Whole Health Action Management) provide education and support to other peers on resiliency factors including stress management, relaxation responses, spiritual practices such as meditation, and cognitive skills to counter negative thinking.
Practicing mindfulness can be beneficial for everyone. Mindfulness is learning to pay close attention to the present moment. It is a way to reconnect with one’s own mind and body, manage stress, and balance emotions.
You can learn more about mindfulness-based interventions at SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). Here you can find information about approaches such as MBSR, MBCT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
For more on mindfulness, check out these resources:
 Coehlo, H. F., Canter, P. H., Ernst, E. (2013). Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy: Evaluating Current Evidence and Informing Future Research. Theory, Research, and Practice, 1(S), 97–107.
 Evans, S., Ferrando, S., Findler, M., Stowell, C., Smart, C., Haglin, D. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. (2008) Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22 (4), 716–721.