Mindfulness and wellness
“Remember the blue sky. It may at times be obscured by clouds, but it is always there.” - Andy Puddicombe (Co-founder Headspace)
Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention that enables us to be more aware and more present in our everyday life. Rob Nairn from the Mindfulness Association offers the following definition:
Mindfulness is knowing what is happening when it is happening; no matter what it is.”
Why is mindfulness helpful?
Often, we can find ourselves lost in our thoughts, or emotions. Mindfulness shows us how to become more present in the moment that we are in. This helps us to become more focused and more self-aware which ripples out into being more present with colleagues and loved ones.
Our mind is full of a continuous stream of thoughts, this is perfectly natural. Our mind is a time traveller, and can quickly take us to past experiences and to the future, thinking and planning! It is rarely in the present moment, so we have to gradually train it to be present and here right now.
Mindfulness is not about trying to stop the thoughts, that may be impossible for most of us. It is more about being aware and accepting of the type of thoughts we are having. Changing our attitude towards our thoughts and learning more about how our mind works. With mindfulness we can notice our habits, and our patterns of thinking that don’t always help us e.g. worrying or being self-critical. We can then choose to do something different.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
- Dr. Viktor Frankl (Holocaust Survivor)
We may notice habits that help us feel better, like taking time out to rest or exercise, talking to ourselves with a kind voice, asking for support, or meeting a friend for a chat. Even preparing and eating our food more slowly, to help our digestive system is a mindful act of nourishing self-care. We can choose to practice these helpful habits more often, in a process of cultivating mindful attention.
With a little mindfulness training, we can start to experience our situation and the world differently. We may see the people in our lives with new eyes or start noticing more in everyday life, maybe the steam on top of our hot drink! This takes practice like any new habit, but it can be fun!
How can I be more mindful?
Mindfulness can be a formal practice like meditation or an informal practice like walking or a hobby where you can be present and aware.
Meditation is a training that helps us to get to know our mind better, like getting to know a new friend. Regular meditation practice can build new neural pathway connections in your brain which develop and eventually strengthen habits of mindfulness. Following the principle of Hebb’s law “energy follows focus, what we pay attention to gets stronger”.
Mindfulness techniques could help you to slow down enough to notice, to be fully awake living moment to moment as your life unfolds. Being in the present moment can help you to reduce stress and anxiety, support mental health and bring more emotional balance at tricky times. The positive effects can ripple out to others.
6 simple mindfulness tips
1. Space for silence. Taking minutes out from your everyday distractions and noise to notice what you need to bring more inner peace.
2. Sound can help the mind to be more spacious, listen to your favourite music, notice the gaps and space, and the quiet between sounds. Tune in to the rise and fall of your breath and your heartbeat.
3. Take time out to rest and restore. Practise setting a healthy boundary. Allow yourself to refuel and hydrate with healthy nutrition. Give your body a chance to heal, to tap into renewed energy and motivation.
4. Befriend yourself by talking to yourself like you would a good friend or small child. Professor Paul Gilbert speaks of the benefits of a reassuring gentle, kinder inner voice, to soothe your nervous system when you feel worried or fearful.
5. Ground yourself and clear your head. Just as electricity needs to be earthed so does our body’s energy, especially at times of heightened emotion and mental activity. Breathe deeply, imagine breathing down to the floor releasing any excess anxiety and stress to the earth. Mindfully exercise to release tension.
6. Visit nature, a garden, a park, walk in woodlands or rest by the vastness of a lake, and observe the stability of a mountain to settle your mind and soothe your senses. Let your imagination and senses tap into an energy force bigger than your mind’s current concerns.