What is it?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that revolves around being able to focus on the present moment while paying attention to what is happening in our mind, body and surroundings.
It is the ability to just be and observe without passing judgement. Mindfulness can be practiced formally or informally and can be made to fit within your life.
What are the benefits?
A regular mindfulness practice will improve mental health, bolster the immune system, increase concentration, and reduce the mind wandering and rumination that can lead to high stress levels. Research also shows that mindfulness is a useful tool to help people manage depression and to stop it recurring.
By learning to observe, rather than listening to your constant internal commentary, you will be able to step back, pause, and react to situations more calmly. Remember what you have been listening to are thoughts, not facts, and you should not give them more weight than they deserve. By observing rather than judging, you can stop the power these thoughts have over you and allow yourself to be free of them and act more positively.
Mindfulness can also be used successfully to reduce pain. It may seem counter-intuitive, as most people want to forget when they are in pain. However, observing and just being with the pain, rather than trying to ignore it, will reduce your stress levels and, with practice, your perception of the pain itself.
How do I start?
There are so many different ways to practice mindfulness, you just need to decide what works for you. The important thing is to start and to practice regularly, ideally daily.
Here are a couple of simple suggestions:
1. The breath
Begin by being aware of your breath. Concentrate on the sensation as you breathe in. How does the air feel as it enters your nostrils? Is there a smell? Can you feel the breath enter your body? How do you feel if you breathe in slowly? What does it feel like when you breathe out?
By observing, and being in the moment as you pay attention to your breath, you may have tuned out the thoughts in your head. If not, don’t worry, just observe your thoughts. Don’t judge them. Come back to your breath and see how it feels.
2. Mindful eating or drinking
You can be mindful when eating or drinking. Focus your whole attention on how the food looks, the taste, the smell, how it feels as you eat it. Think about where it came from and how it ended up on your plate.
Personally, I like to practice mindfulness when walking. I take time to experience the sights, sounds, smells and physical sensations being outside offers me. I tune into my breath as I walk and observe how it changes depending on the terrain where I am walking. I notice something different every time I walk, even if it is a route that I use regularly. For me, it is the best way that I can be truly present and mindful of where I am.
Mindfulness will stop you living on autopilot. You will notice everyday things anew and it will give you a clearer sense of perspective on where you are and where you want to get to.
I'm a Personal Coach who loves finding out about what makes people tick and helping them to make the changes necessary to get to where they want to go.