It is certainly a crazy and uncertain time and with the unknown there is a lot of talk about mindfulness. But what exactly is it?
Mindfulness is about focusing your awareness on the present moment. Being in the moment helps you acknowledge, accept and cope with painful thoughts, feelings and sensations.
It is a simple and powerful practice that takes a few minutes and can be done just about anywhere, so it is great for your everyday mental health and well being.
What is mindfulness?
As we try and juggle life, we may have “too many balls in the air” which can create sleepless nights, difficulty concentrating, worry about family and friends and the world around us in general. Without an anchor to the present, stress can overwhelm our minds.
Mindfulness is paying full attention to what is going on in you and outside you, moment by moment. It means you detect your thoughts, feelings and also the sensations of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. You are also fully aware of your surroundings.
When am I not mindful?
Mindfulness isn’t something you have drop everything to do. In fact, it’s most useful when you are in the middle of a daily activity and your mind starts to wander into stressful thoughts and tension.
We all have routines in our daily life, such as waking up and going to work or school. If you are doing something familiar, you may tend to operate on autopilot and not notice what is actually going on. For instance, you might eat a whole packet of chips in front of the TV without actually noticing the taste!
Some people spend a lot of time thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Being caught up in your thoughts may even make it harder to fall asleep at night. Mindfulness helps you to manage these negative thoughts and feelings in a more positive way.
How can I be mindful?
To start having mindful moments, identify an everyday activity where your thoughts tend to wander into painful memories, problems or worry. It could be brushing your teeth, eating lunch, walking - any part of your day.
Next time that happens, try these tips:
Focus on what your senses say to you. What can you see, hear, taste, touch and smell? Don’t overthink it, just notice what you’re sensing.
It’s OK if your attention wanders. Gradually bring your mind back to your senses.
Thoughts and feelings will come and go while you’re being mindful. Let them - they are just thoughts. Keep your awareness on your senses, anchoring you in the present moment while everything else drifts by.
Focus on your breathing. Feel the air go in and then go out and notice the pauses in between. Try not to control or change your breath: instead allow the air to come and go.
It’s normal to feel distracted and find it hard but it will get easier with practice.
Let mindfulness spread into other parts of your day. Try it sitting still or moving around, in the morning or the last thing at night. Find the right amount of mindfulness for you. Five minutes each day is better than trying to make it happen all the time.
Keep practising, it will get easier and more satisfying the more you do it.