Mindfulness is all over the news these days, but do you really know what mindfulness is and how to work it into your life more consistently?
Today I’ve asked Mindfulness Coach and Therapist, Jenna Ghazanfari, LMFT, to join us and answer some questions about mindfulness and share about the work she’s doing in Sacramento, CA
Adriana: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today Jenna! First, tell me a bit about you… what guided you to become a therapist and mindfulness coach?
Jenna: Thank you for having me here today, Adriana! I have always been drawn to helping people, so being a therapist was a natural path for me. I love that people coming to therapy are looking to talk about real stuff and share their intimate experiences. It's a real honor to be let into someone's world in that way.
And mindfulness has been extremely helpful for me personally and it’s something that I believe every person could benefit from, so I have always been passionate about sharing it with others.
A: I wanted to chat with you today about mindfulness. Recently you’ve expanded your work into teaching mindfulness classes and coaching individuals in mindfulness. How would you describe mindfulness to people who have never heard of what mindfulness is?
J: Mindfulness is paying attention to your present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. It's really about living in this moment and being more aware of your thoughts and feelings and experiences. It's about looking at things as they are and acknowledging the joys and the difficulties in life. Everything in life, pleasant and unpleasant, is only real in this moment, and there's peace in that because you get to enjoy the good while it's here and you get to know that the difficult times will pass.
A: What drew you to learn more about mindfulness personally?
J: My own struggle with anxiety is what originally brought me to mindfulness. When I started practicing, it completely changed my life. I had never felt present before in my life. I was always in my head… Thinking about the future … Usually planning something or worrying about something. Mindfulness taught me to stay in the present moment, see things as they really are, and have more gratitude for the good things in my life. It brought me so much peace.
A: Tell me about your personal mindfulness practice.
J: I practice different types of meditation. I do body scans at night before bed, and I often do heart meditation during the day. Heart meditation is a more emotional type of meditation that draws from a place of inner love and wisdom and I find that it's a great way to release the stresses and worries of the day and access a peaceful part of myself.
A: Right now, your practice is focused on guiding others in building a mindfulness practice. What are some of the changes you see in people as they start practicing mindfulness?
J: The main benefits that people talk about are feeling more grounded, less stressed, more self-aware, and overall feeling happier in their lives. There are so many benefits to mindfulness, but at the end of the day, I think the greatest gift it offers us is more peace and joy in our lives.
A: How does that differ from people that have been practicing consistent for a long time? What are some of the long-term benefits you see in others of a consistent mindfulness practice?
J: As you become an experienced meditator, you learn to ride the ups and downs of life with more ease and acceptance. So even though you will still have stressors in your life as everyone does, you won’t be so affected by it. Mindfulness also has incredible health benefits including decreased anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease, and anti-aging effects at the cellular level.
A: I work with several individuals that experience chronic pain, is this an area that mindfulness can impact? How exactly does mindfulness help with physical health?
J: Yes, this program was actually originally created for patients with chronic pain. Mindfulness helps chronic pain the same way that it helps with emotional pain. It teaches you to acknowledge the pain rather than trying to ignore it. When we avoid physical pain, we tend to tense up, which causes more inflammation, more stress and anxiety about the pain, and then all that resistance ends up causing more pain and suffering. When we allow ourselves to acknowledge and feel the pain, which is very counter-intuitive, it allows the pain to come and go and it allows you to relax, which leads to less stress and anxiety and less physical pain.
A: On your website, you mention that mindfulness helps people respond to stress instead of react, tell me what you mean by that.
J: We have all been wired from a young age to have automatic reactions to stressful situations. When we perceive a situation to be threatening, our fight or flight reactions kick in. We may react with anger and hostility, or we may go into avoidance mode by shutting down, stuffing feelings, and using coping mechanisms like drinking, over eating, or Facebook bingeing. Mindfulness helps you to stay in the moment, become aware of the feelings and thoughts that are coming up for you, and then respond to the situation in a thoughtful and level-headed way.
A: I know you work actively in the LGBTQ community, how can a mindfulness practice support someone exploring their gender or sexuality?
J: Mindfulness is so important for someone exploring their gender or sexuality. So many people are taught that the way they feel isn't OK and it creates so much confusion and so much suffering. With Mindfulness, you can learn to listen to the voice inside of you that knows exactly who you are and knows that you are loved and you are perfect just as you are.
A: As therapists we talk about ‘self-care’ a lot. What do you do that nurtures and fills you?
J: For me, exercise is huge and meditation is just as important. The more present I feel, the more grounded and the more joy that I feel. It helps me focus on the here and now and appreciating the people in my life who mean everything to me. It helps me enjoy moments like going on a nature walk with my kids and laughing out loud with my husband. We only have moments to live and I do the best that I can to not miss out on the really beautiful ones.
A: Tell me a bit more about the mindfulness classes you’re teaching.
J: I teach a six week program called Mindfulness for Stress Reduction. The class is a great way to get started with a mindfulness practice or can also be used to deepen an existing practice. In the class, participants will learn to become more aware of the thoughts and behaviors that lead to stress, anxiety, and pain. We learn relaxation techniques and various meditations for stress reduction, and we spend time sharing experiences and supporting each other on our journey to bring more peace and balance into our lives.
A: As we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to add?
J: Just that Mindfulness is called a practice because nobody does it perfectly. Nobody walks around perfectly mindful and calm all the time. We're all human and it's about setting an intention to live your life in a certain way and to bring love and openness and curiosity to life whenever you can.
I want to thank Jenna Ghazanfari for her time and sharing her energy with us! If you are interested in deepening your mindfulness practice check out the free guided mindfulness meditations that Jenna offers on her website and the mindfulness classes she’s offering weekly. These classes fill up quickly so reach out if you’re even considering snagging your spot.
Here’s to being mindful and enjoying the moment!
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento area therapist specializing in helping people lead authentic lives. Adriana’s most passionate about supporting individuals exploring their gender and sexuality, and advocating for the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.