Some of us feel ashamed that we can’t push the negativity away by focusing on our faith or service. Some of us feel powerless when we simply can’t think happy thoughts or “get over” an overwhelming train of thought. And some of us don’t know how to head off negative thinking before it takes hold and interferes with work, rest, and our relationships.
But we don’t have to go on this way. We’re not at the mercy of negative thinking.
So how do we get over this? Mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is defined as “non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.” It is learning to be aware and in tune with the here and now through our five senses.
When we practice mindfulness, we feel less threatened by the future, less burdened by the past, and more confident of what we can control and who we can trust.
Christians Are Sometimes Nervous about Mindfulness
The faith community is often concerned that the practice of works or anything other than prayer and Biblical study is in opposition to or in competition with our faith or trusting God. Not so!
The case can even be made that mindfulness meditation is the worry-free, focused, relaxed place God asks us to enter. We are quiet and observant. Our bodies are not anxious and upset. In fact, we may find that mindfulness is a tool that can provide the relief and mental space necessary to help us to refocus our thoughts on these pillars of our faith.
Mindfulness is essentially an exercise for our brains and mind.
Dr. Gregory Bottaro of Catholicpsych.com puts it this way:
“It [Mindfulness] can be integrated with your Christian understanding and combat negativity. Practically speaking, instead of just saying, “I trust God,” we can put our minds behind our words. When we ruminate about the past or future, churning worries or regrets over and over in our minds, we are acting as if we are in control and we need to figure everything out. If we want to make an act of trust in God, we can try to let go of that false control, and focus our minds on the realities of the present moment instead. This is how we practically “let go and let God.” Integrated with a Christian understanding of the path to holiness, this is how we can experience true peace.”
As we practice being present, we can more openly receive the comfort and care of our faith.
4 Key Ways Mindfulness Meditation Can Amplify Clarity & Ease Our Negative Thoughts
1. We become adept at recognizing rather than just reacting to our thoughts.
In recent decades, much research has been dedicated to the effects of unhelpful thinking and the resulting stress on our minds and bodies. The key isn’t to ignore or avoid such thoughts but to honestly and willingly recognize them.
This is in complete accordance with the Christian faith and the scriptural command to “take our thoughts captive.” We don’t have to stop thinking thoughts, but we can pay attention to them, accept them, and leave them alone. We notice how they affect us and think about how they are disabling us. Not to manipulate them or worry over. But to simply practice being aware and capable of surrendering our thoughts to God, leaving no room for excessive, negative thinking.
Mindfulness is literally “coming to our senses” and calming the mind by paying attention to our mental habits without judgment. Otherwise, we miss the peace of surrendering these thoughts and freely moving forward.
Paying attention to thoughts isn’t validating the emotions or negativity. We simply allow that the thoughts to exist and deny them the power to sneak up or overwhelm us.
2. Relaxation and meditation exercises soothe the mind and body, to release negative thinking.
When negative thoughts happen, negativity is happening throughout our bodies as well. Negative thoughts can create anxious tension in our muscles and affect our internal systems.
Meditation helps slow things back down and return our bodies to their peaceful state. Body chemical and blood pressure return to normal as we pay attention to our breath and focus our minds. We can enter the state of surrender and trust what God wants for us. Our bodies need not shoulder more than they are meant to.
Relaxing our bodies via mindful breathing, especially, helps us create a routine of exhaling negative thoughts. If we find our minds wander toward negativity, focused breathing exercises support concentration and mental clarity.
Regularly planning time for quiet and peaceful interaction with our bodies makes space for spiritual focus as well.
3. Mindfulness enables mental agility and resilience
Mindfulness is an excellent path toward recovery and productivity. The practice asks us to be kind and gentle with ourselves and our bodies. So often we pressure ourselves or beat ourselves up for being negative. Mindfulness asks us to be honest and present, not critical and punishing.
This opens us up to more purposeful and productive thinking. We are more able to challenge negativity and seek the truths of our faith as we feel stronger and more capable of facing challenges objectively. We can notice our feelings but resist getting caught up in waves of emotion.
4. We can be where we are… contentedly
Contentment is a concept deeply rooted in the Christian faith. Negative thoughts are disturbing because they keep us in a cycle of discontent. We go around and around labeling ourselves, feeling discouraged, expecting to be disappointed.
When we get some space carved out away from automatic negative thoughts, mindfulness secures a more observant place. We can see what’s good. We can take in what matters—we can hear the truth and trust it.
Negativity then, cannot so easily get a foothold. We feel God's goodness. The scriptures are welcome guidance. The circumstances of life teach worthwhile lessons. You are enough and blessed with grace and salvation.
And now we have a mind that is quiet and aware enough to see it all.
Do you want help learning to practice mindful meditation? If so please reach out for a consultation. We can work together toward the goals and peace that matter most to you.
For more information about anxiety or depression counseling, click here.
About the Author
Julia Nelson, LPCA, LMFTA is a psychotherapist and owns a private practice in Flat Rock and Forest City, NC. In general, she specializes in couples counseling, anxiety and depression counseling, premarital counseling, and parenting classes. She is also a Certified Clinical Military Counselor. To find out more about Julia click here: Nelson Christian Counseling.
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