Mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘being in the moment, and this is exactly what Mindfulness is. In the chaos of everyday life, it’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up stuck ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour. One key part of Mindfulness, is reconnecting with our bodies and the way they feel. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs. One exercise I like to suggests to my clients, is to eat their next meal in silence with no TV, mobile phone or electronic device etc, and simply focus on the food. Take in how each mouthful tastes, how many chews it takes and even the saliva mounting up in the mouth. It’s really amazing how hard this exercise can be, because our mind isn’t conditioned to be single pointed (focused only on one thing) but if you practice regularly it becomes much easier. Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.
How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience the beauty of things we’ve been taking for granted and this uplifts us and heightens our mood. Think about it…When was the last time you sat in the park and noticed ‘really noticed’ the colours of flowers & the different greens of the trees? Most people won’t be able to remember the last time. Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience. Without awareness we get mixed up in our own thoughts which can be destructive. We can create scenarios that simply aren’t accurate and before we know it, we’re in crisis. Focusing on the breath is a great way of relaxing the mind & this allows us to stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us. Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go, and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. It’s always helpful to keep ourselves in check by creating a dialogue with the mind and asking… “am I seeing this situation realistically, or am I tangled up in my own thoughts?” Trying new things is also a great way to practice mindfulness such as sitting in a different seat in meetings, or going somewhere new for lunch. It’s important to understand that Mindfulness is not just about sitting cross legged and chanting – it’s a complete way of life that can have a wonderful impact on our health & wellbeing.