Many popular articles have recently been written about staying present and being mindful. Some folks describe it as focusing your attention on the sensory experiences in the moment–like hearing the wind blow or feeling the temperature on your skin.  But mindfulness can be more than simply distracting your attention.

The Metacognitive Therapy folks in England developed what may be the first well-researched mindfulness strategy: Attention Training Technique. ( In that treatment protocol, the patient is taught to shift attention from distressing ideas (worrisome thoughts, phobic ideas) to the experiences in the real-life moment.  The method trains you to keep your attention on what’s really going on, rather than the images and thoughts that cause anxiety or depression. 

However, in more recent CBT strategies, most notably ACT, focus work on staying present ( as a method to align behaviors in a moment with the thoughts that describe the present (not judge it) and the values a person holds. In this view, staying present, or being mindful of the moment, is used to help someone become unstuck in judgmental or predictive thinking, and instead see how to use behaviors to be true to one’s values in a given moment. Being present, in this approach, is a strategy to find ways for live to be more attuned with what matters most to the person in a given situation.  

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