What is ‘mindfulness’?
There are many benefits to “being mindful” – also known as mindfulness – but what does it actually mean?
The Dictionary describes mindfulness as “The state or quality of being mindful or aware of something” and “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them.”
Too often we go through life without taking the time to stop and be aware of our surroundings, of nature, of people, of how we are feeling, and what we are experiencing and thinking. However, by being more aware of these things as they are happening, can greatly help to improve our mental health and wellbeing.
Some benefits of ‘being mindful’ can include:
- A reduction in feelings of:
- A more positive outlook
- Less rumination
- Improved decision making
- Improved sleep
- Better able to deal with difficult situations
- Having more clarity over every-day situations
- More self-compassion
How can I be more mindful?
There are a variety of ‘mindful exercises’ that you can do to help you to be more mindful, which are simple enough things that you can do in your day-to-day; they include:
- Going for a walk and noticing things you pass, such as trees, people, buildings, colours…
- Eating your food slowly and enjoying the taste and texture
- Making a cup of tea or coffee and enjoying the smell and the taste, and noticing the warm mug in your hands
- Sitting and watching traffic and people pass by
- Turning your mobile phone off to step away from distractions such as texts and social media, even for just 10 minutes a day
- Listening to music without being doing something at the same time, such as being on your phone – simply listen to the music and notice the tune, the words and the different instruments
- Read a book rather than watching TV
- Laying in the grass and noticing how it feels under your feet and hands, or noticing the smell of the grass
- Listening to the sounds around you – traffic, birdsong, people chatting, the rain on the window, the wind in the trees…
- Breathing exercises – take a moment or two to concentrate on your breaths in and out; this can be really helpful if you are feeling panicky or anxious. Take a look at the video below, which explains breathing exercises to help if you experience breathlessness:
If you’d like to know more about mindfulness and being mindful, take a look at the links at the bottom of this page to other websites and other pages within this website.
Real life experience
Being mindful has saved me from myself. I say this now with affection as I have an understanding of the extent to which I tortured myself daily with monotonous overthinking and hours of ceaseless conversations inside my head. These quirks that had become more ingrained than a bad habit only proved to create more anxiety and leave me constantly on the edge of exhaustion. The realisation that I myself had the ability within me to take a break from my “hectic” mind seemed all too simple yet I was willing to give it a go in order to relieve myself from daily exasperation. I did resist at first, well I guess my mind wasn’t as open to change as the rest of me was. However, with gentle coaxing, patience, and self-compassion I can now bring myself to the present once again and focus solely on one moment. My mind does wander as is its way, but I have acquired the skills to calmly guide myself, by using my breath, to the now.
Even if this gives me only a few moments of respite from the jungle inside my head it is worth it. The peace and calm I feel in my body, mind and soul, created from focussing on my breath and senses, becomes stored in my memory and I am encouraged by this contentment within me to do it again and again. And I do find that the more I practiced the more second nature it becomes. It does require patience and a willingness to practice regularly with some ways being more “mindful” than others. I do feel that even the tiniest of practices enables me to reach stillness in myself and feel connected to whatever is around me, either visually or audibly. I find that mindful eating is particularly beneficial for me as I have experienced periods of eating disorders throughout my life. With mindfulness as a tool to aid pain relief so it aids me in my healthy relationship with food. Using my breath which is always with me means I always have that ability to ground myself and tune back in to my body rather than live within my mind.