BECOMING MORE MINDFUL
By Louise Sayers
What is ‘Mindfulness’?
Over the last few years, mindfulness has become increasingly popular within mainstream thinking. It sounds mystifying but is actually very simple. It is just about becoming more aware of both your internal and external environment. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of your external world and your thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment by moment. The key is moving away from autopilot and into the NOW. This opens a gap between an event, emotion and your response to it. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, or quick fix decisions, you will find that you have time and a feeling of mental space to make better decisions and wiser choices.
Why is Mindfulness so Popular?
Mindfulness has been found to make people feel more:
- Full of vitality
- Self – assured
- Able to engage with, and appreciate the world around them
It has also been proven to help with mental health problems by reducing stress and anxiety and can be applied to all areas of life including relationships, weight loss, bereavement, habit breaking and motivation.
How Easy is it?
There are lots of ways to assimilate mindfulness into daily life without having to meditate as such. If you go out for daily exercise and take walks you may notice the vibrant colours of the leaves on the trees, the buds, bluebells, butterflies, the light, the sound of birds, the feel of the breeze on your skin. You are using your senses. By doing so you are being mindful. In fact, any action you take can be done in a mindful way, even the chores! Washing up, cleaning the floor, sorting the washing, hanging the washing out – as long as you are in the moment – fully engaged with what you are doing right now. Noticing the smell of the washing up liquid, the change in the colour of the floor, the feel of the damp clothes, the click of the pegs. This is mindfulness.
What is the Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation?
Mindfulness and meditation are closely linked. You can become mindful without meditation but one informs the other. Meditation is a very old practice that has been used for centuries and there are many types. If you think of mindfulness as the quality of awareness you seek to experience quite naturally in your everyday life, then meditation is the process, or time, when you practice cultivating this quality of awareness.
The NHS Website describes what mindfulness meditation involves, in straight forward terms, as “sitting and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensation of breathing or parts of the body, bringing your mind back whenever the mind starts to wander”. By practising this regularly you will, over time, find yourself becoming more mindful in your everyday life.
Sign Me Up! Where Do I Start?
Formal meditation is one place, but there are many others. Find the best way for you personally. This may be going to actual sessions on mindfulness or meditation, but you may find using apps such as Headspace or Calm fit better into your life.
You can also become mindful in tai chi or yoga sessions – particularly when different breathing techniques are incorporated into the class.
There are no age limits on this and no right or wrong. Everyone is different. Enjoy being mindful in whatever way you choose. When you are mindfully engaged in your life, you really live it.