Over recent months the words mindful and mindfulness have become buzz words and we are being advised to be mindful and live in a more mindful way, but what does it mean?
The Cambridge English Dictionary describes mindfulness as …. the practice of being aware of your body, mind and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.
Mindfulness dates back to over 2500 years when Buddhist monks were said to have used it during meditation to help them focus their mind. Breathing techniques were also incorporated as this helped to strengthen the focus. In 1979 Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques (MBSR) that are now practiced worldwide.
Mindfulness in simple terms is being more aware of what you are doing. It helps you to be more conscious of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the present moment. It is very beneficial when negative thoughts are constantly being regurgitated. Being mindful will help you to recognise these thoughts for what they are – they are just thoughts. Thoughts dictate how we feel and negative thoughts lead to negative feelings which will leave you feeling anxious, resulting in stress. Being mindful teaches you to have more control over your thoughts and feelings and will have a positive impact on managing and reducing your stress and anxiety levels.
A few years ago, (and still now for some people) being good at multi-tasking was the way to be – getting as many things done at the same time. I’ve always thought multi-tasking was over-rated as it often results in completing several tasks to a substandard level. When having a meal you may have the TV or radio on, be using your mobile and be having a conversation with others at the meal, but how much of the meal are you truly aware of and how much of the conversation are you actually engaged with?
Try this mindful breathing exercise for 1-2 minutes
- Sit in a chair with your back straight, your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap.
- With your eyes closed (or open if you prefer) focus on your breathing.
- How does it sound – loud or quiet?
- How does it feel – slow or fast?
- Does your chest rise or is it your stomach that moves up and down?
- What does it sound like?
- How does the air feel as it enters and leaves your nose or mouth?
Being mindful of your breathing will instantly help you to feel relaxed and calm and will reduce feelings of anxiety. You can use mindfulness in all aspects of your daily life – washing up, walking, getting dressed, eating, making a drink etc. Start being more mindful during your day and see how it makes you feel. I’m most mindful in the morning when I’m preparing and eating my breakfast. It’s also the meal that I very rarely skip.
Mindfulness techniques are included on my retreat days as well as yoga, tai chi or qi-gong which are sometimes described as moving mindfulness activities. There’s still time to register your interest.
I encourage my client to be mindful and direct them to Headspace if they are open to exploring how being more mindful to help them manage their stress and anxiety levels. Take a look at this short video by the founder of Headspace, he explains it really well.