Mindfulness – What it is and how you can use it to improve your life
It seems to be a new buzz word, we should all apparently be more mindful, but what exactly does that mean and how will it make our lives better?
Paying attention to the present moment
Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way. In essence, it trains your brain to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sounds, sights, smells-anything that is present around us at that moment in time.
But surely we want to be able to distract ourselves from the here and now and take our thoughts away to a more restful place? Yes, there’s nothing wrong with this; but it can also be very helpful to be able to develop a different relationship with difficult thoughts and feelings that we so often seek to escape.
This gives us more choices and awareness of how best to approach the difficult thoughts and feelings that we can all experience and that, sometimes can lead us to stress, depression and anxiety.
Let’s be clear, it’s not easy, we are so used to being reactive to our thoughts and the things that go on around us it is difficult to take a step back and observe our own thinking. But with some practice, you can learn to watch your own difficult thoughts without them taking control of your life, or feeling that you need to constantly distract yourself from them in order to cope.
So how do we go about integrating this into our day-to-day lives?
How often do you drive to work and have no recollection of how you got there? This is a perfect example of not being present in the moment: you may get into the car feeling irritated that someone has used the last of the milk and you haven’t been able to have your morning coffee or you might be thinking about the important meeting waiting for you at work.
Now, what have you missed whilst your mind has been elsewhere? Did you not feel the sun coming in through your window as you sat at the traffic lights or miss the few minutes of peace and quiet in the car before your day began.
The trick of mindfulness
This is what mindfulness is-bringing your attention back to the here and now. It is normal for your mind to wander, the trick is to notice this and bring it back to the present:
- Feel the steering wheel under your hands
- Notice your breathing-is it fast or slow
- Feel the tension in your shoulders and accept it for what it is
- Every time you feel your mind start to wander bring it back and appreciate the moment for what it is
- Slow your breathing to a regular rhythm
- Be aware of which parts of your body are holding onto tension and let it go, if it will.
Your everyday life
Now, think of your day-to-day life, how often do you go through your daily routines without paying any attention to them: brushing your teeth, eating your lunch, doing homework with your children. These are all opportunities for us to be in the moment, mindful of how we feel, giving ourselves an opportunity to be connected with our actual lives.
By making small changes to our daily routines we can reduce stress and improve our overall mental wellbeing.
How Select Psychology can help
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, and think it might help you, book a free consultation with our triage nurse, who will be able to talk through your options.