Mindfulness – what is it?
For so long, mindfulness was a buzz word, it was something people wanted to be or to achieve. However, when we step back, we realise that being mindful is a state, it’s something that takes practice and that we need to work towards continuously. Mindfulness is often described as paying attention, on purpose in the present moment (Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction). It can help us to ground our emotions when we feel uncertain, overwhelmed or anxious. Making it a great tool to support our health and wellbeing.
What does mindfulness actually do?
Mindfulness allows us to accept what we cannot change, and to pause while we focus on being present, creating a greater sense of awareness. Imagine the impact this can have if we were to pause during the day and actually notice the cup of tea or coffee we were drinking. Noting its temperature, taste, aroma and fully engaging in the moment. Or even better, imagine the impact
this could have on our relationships if we engaged fully when we played with our children, spoke to
our partners and socialised with our friends. Immersing ourselves in the moment and actively listening and participating in the experiences.
Mindfulness in our busy lives:
Often, we find ourselves moving through our day on ‘auto pilot’. However, rather than being on autopilot mode, mindfulness allows us to experience the world around us as it happens. Practicing mindfulness involves bringing our awareness to the present moment, in a non-judgemental way. In doing so, we can focus on one thing at time, fully engaging in the moment and being present in the experience.
For some people mindfulness looks like a mindful meditation session, for others it involves a mindful walk with awareness on the movements of their body, their surroundings and sights they encounter. Mindfulness is a flexible tool that can be applied in a variety of ways, if a specific practice doesn’t align with our needs or personality we can always look at other ways to practice and find our best fit. The key is in the practice though because practice makes progress; mindfulness is not about being perfect. It is about having awareness when we are distracted and returning our attention to the practice. It is non-judgmental and this means accepting our practice as it is in the moment without judging it as good or bad, right or wrong.
Remember that mindfulness is about awareness and this means become aware when you are distracted, and simply acknowledging this and bringing yourself back to your practice. It can be helpful to practice mindfulness regularly so that the tool is familiar, it doesn’t always need to be a breathing tool so get creative and explore how you can be mindful in your day.
3 Tips for including mindfulness in your daily life:
- Mindfulness meditation. This involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. This could mean formally practicing a guided mindfulness sequence or simply engaging in the present moment, paying full attention without judgement to the experience. Throughout the day take a moment to observe five mindful breaths; noticing the way you breath in and out with each breath, the movement of air through the nose and notice the flow of the breath as it moves through the body. You might like to place a hand over your heart to connect you to your breath and notice the way your body responds to the inhale and exhale of the breath.
- Practice Acceptance. Give yourself permission to accept intense emotions, limitations or what you cannot change. Without needing to approve or like it, to simply let it be. Acceptance allows us to move forward.
- The 54321 Exercise: This exercise involves paying attention to our senses and allows us to notice and observe in a non-judgmental way. It is often referred to as a mindfulness or a grounding tool and is very helpful in calming anxiety and worry, slowing racing thoughts and regulating our emotions. It involves noticing 5 things you can see. 4 things you can feel. 3 things you can hear. 2 things you can smell. 1 thing you can taste. Each time you observe something in your 54321 exercise use the phrase “I notice….” For example I notice the green chair, I notice the blue bird, I notice the yellow cup and so on. You can repeat the 54321 sequence as you need and end with a mindful breath.
It is important to keep in mind that mindfulness is a practice, and practice makes progress!
Clinical Psychologist and Director
Growth Pursuit Consulting
The Compassionate Parent App
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