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Irene Hernández: "We are prepared to solve problems"

Mental health and emotional well-being are often understood as aspects of life that are either beyond our control or must be intervened by psychotherapy professionals. However, there are actually some habits and routines that offer us the ability to improve our quality of life. life in this aspect, and the practice of Mindfulness, also known as Full Attention, is a clear example of it.

That's why, In this interview with the psychologist Irene Hernández we talk about the potential of Mindfulness as a resource to take care of our mental health in everyday life, and about its relationship with psychological flexibility.

  • Related article: "What is Mindfulness? The 7 answers to your questions

Interview with Irene Hernández: What benefits does training in Mindfulness bring us?

Irene Hernández is a health psychologist specializing in Contextual Therapies, ACT and Mindfulness, as well as a member of the Activital Psychologists center, a psychology center located in Madrid from which, together with his team, he has launched the online course "Mindfulness and Psychological Flexibility". In this interview she explains to us why learning Mindfulness is not only important for mental health professionals.

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Is Mindfulness more than meditation as the latter is usually understood?

Meditation is usually understood as an exercise that focuses on thoughts, on "leaving the mind blank". Many types of meditation are practiced with very different objectives, which can be from reaching a state of more spiritual awareness, or reviewing the past, or focusing more on sensations physical.

On the other hand, in Mindfulness we have in us, at our disposal, the main tool with which we can play, which is attention, and It consists precisely in training this capacity that we all have, through the guidance of a professional, as it could be in our case, or self-instructed. We can consider attention as a flashlight lighting up a dark room, we can learn to direct the light of the flashlight to different areas of the room and perhaps observe details that we might not otherwise have noticed were there. over there.

Bearing in mind that Mindfulness gives importance to the "here and now"... Do you think that many people have problems managing their emotions because they focus too much on the past or the future?

Yes, many times we can feel emotions unpleasant fear, sadness, anger, anxiety... that have to do with what has happened to us in the past or with what we think will happen to us in the future, not with what is happening in the present. Emotions tell us what is important to us and what is important captures our attention. adaptive, just like in the jungle, keeping your eyes wide open and being attentive to possible threats is very adaptive.

This can become a problem for many people, because although our emotions are telling us that there is something important for us in the future or in the past, At the same time, human beings live in the present and we may be losing things that are valuable to us, such as the emotions that come from playing, for example. with our son, the sensations of finding ourselves in bed at night enjoying the physical and mental relaxation of the moment or those of being with some friends in a terrace.

Could you give examples of the way in which Mindfulness helps to face difficult times, in which uncertainty is a source of anxiety?

As I mentioned in the previous question, we are biologically prepared to solve problems, we are linguistic beings, and sometimes we are very focused on this capacity, in the world of thoughts it is easy to lose contact with the present moment, to enter “automatic pilot”, which may have a cost for us. For example: being with our partner taking a walk in the park, maybe if we are in a difficult moment of our life, with a lot of uncertainty, thoughts come to us that request our attention, problems to solve or even unpleasant emotions about it, if we we let ourselves go and put our attention on these we may be missing other sensations that are going unnoticed, such as the warmth of the hand of our partner, the conversation, the connection in the look, the sweetness, the breeze that touches our skin when walking, the sensation in our body when walking, etc. The practice in Mindfulness meditation will be focused on promoting the ability to voluntarily direct the Focused, deliberate, and flexible attention in the present moment to what is important to you. us.

How are psychological flexibility and mindfulness related? Does it have to do with the experience of letting thoughts flow?

They are closely related, flexibility is the ability to behave and feel in the present moment, with full attention, at the service of values chosen, either changing or persisting in patterns of effective behaviors, while Mindfulness is being with the thoughts and emotions that surround us. arise.

Flexibility implies a deliberate action in which we are choosing where to direct our attention, while Mindfulness focuses on training attention not necessarily putting a intention.

Both mindfulness and flexibility are involved in the experience of letting thoughts flow, since we need to be focused through attention and at the same time direct it to a point of observer; this is where flexibility comes into play, when a thought asks us to go in and respond to it, to hooking on it, choosing to return to the point of observation and not responding, is a flexible action, directed by us.

Which aspects of Mindfulness are more complicated to learn, and which are the simplest and easiest?

Starting to practice Mindfulness is easy, in the course we start guiding with audios, you just have to follow the instructions, and as if it were a muscle that we can train little by little you can notice that you direct your attention and pay more attention to other sensations with practice.

Perhaps the most complicated aspect is our own barriers of rules or preconceived thoughts about meditation or Mindfulness, or unpleasant sensations that we may be noticing and we don't want to feel, before this, it is likely that thoughts of "this is nonsense", "it makes me nervous", "I don't like it", and it is easy stay with those thoughts, but if we give the experience a chance and are attentive to the beneficial effects that we can notice, we will begin to experience other types of sensations and we will realize that we can be with thoughts and emotions that we do not like, giving us more power of movement and choice over our own life.

What are the main skills that allow you to enhance the "Mindfulness and Psychological Flexibility" course that you offer in Activital, and in what kind of day-to-day experiences are they expressed?

The course is designed so that we can develop our psychological flexibility with the aim of enhancing our ability to being in the present with others, improving our interpersonal relationships and perspective-taking skills, choosing the most beneficial for us by contacting our values, in short, being able to be more at peace with ourselves and in tune with what we want.

With the daily practice of Mindfulness we can enhance these skills to live a fuller and more satisfying life, being more connected with what is most important to us, to enjoy more of the present, of our loved ones or to be more productive in the worked.

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