How Mindfulness Can Benefit Highly Sensitive People
Are highly sensitive people more mindful?
Posted May 5, 2014
Mindfulness is becoming an increasingly common term used to describe a state of being. It’s not a religion or a philosophy, but a technique that encourages acceptance, appreciation and living in the moment. To me, it’s something that highly sensitive people can not only benefit from, but something we also do naturally.
Based on ancient Zen Buddhist techniques, mindfulness is a tool that anyone can use. By becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations in the moment, mindfulness can help you to reduce stress, calm your emotions, and even relieve pain and illness. Mindfulness techniques have even been used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and other health conditions.
The way a highly sensitive person experiences the world is, essentially, a mindful way of looking at the world. We automatically notice the world around us, particularly sensory information such as sounds, colours and scents. We are aware of feelings, especially the feelings of others, because we absorb them so easily. We pay attention to the tone of voices, to the ache in our back when we’re doing something we don’t enjoy, to the song of the birds in the morning. All of these kinds of intense, sensory experiences make life richer, fuller and more beautiful for HSPs. While many people are living their lives on autopilot, missing the sublteties and the beauty that is all around them, HPSs live in the present, moment by moment taking time to appreciate, absorb and reflect on what is happening around us and within us. We also like to bring a sense of meaning to our lives through creative expression, capturing those sights, sounds and smells in works of art.
But all these experiences can also make life more stressful for highly sensitive people when we continually absorb this information without paying attention to our own needs. The key facets of mindfulness can help us to be highly sensitive while creating a life that is calm, peaceful and happy:
1. Awareness. This essential element of mindfulness allows us to cope with stressful or upsetting thoughts and feelings by paying attention to them. When we are worrying about someone else, for example, we can become aware that we are worrying and recognise that worry is just a thought, just a feeling, and that we can notice it and let it move on, drifting out of our mind like a cloud across the sky.
2. Nonjudgement. When we notice thoughts or feelings or our own reactions, we can simply become aware of them and let them go without judging them as either good or bad. In this way, you face your thoughts and feelings, yourself and others with an attitude of openness, acceptance and compassion. This allows us to be compassionate and interested in things and in people, without any effort to change them or deny our feelings about them. We can just accept them as they are without fear.
3. Living in the moment. Mindfulness reminds us that the only moment that is real is the present moment. Thinking about the past or the future isn’t wrong, but we need to do so purposefully, so that we are not losing the joy of our present lives. By doing so, especially through mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga or walking, we can decrease the effect of negative thoughts and create a space for peace and calmness to develop. With practice, mindfulness gives you the chance to slow down, stop the mental chatter and just breathe.
Taking time for solitude, for down time, for creative time, for taking walks in nature, is essential for the well-being of highly sensitive people. We instinctively know that we need it, that we crave it, especially when we are under stress, and yet many of us fail to give ourselves the opportunity to do it. Ask yourself if perhaps that’s because you feel you don’t deserve it. Have you been putting everyone else first, setting your own needs on the back burner, your own creative energies simmering? Consider the mindful way and remember that there is only today, there is only the experience that we are having right now, and we do not need to judge others or ourselves harshly for what we are feeling. We only need to be as compassionate to ourselves as we are to others.