Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and without judgement. It is not about stopping or controlling our thoughts or emotions, rather, it is the act of observing these thoughts and experiences as they arise. By paying attention to the present moment, our thoughts that are often entangled with judgements, opinions and preferences are able to exist exactly as they are and we can observe them with compassion, awareness and non-judgement. Mindfulness can be formal – such as the formal practice of meditation where you sit, usually with the eyes closed, and focus attention your breathing or the sensations experienced within your body. Mindfulness can also be informal – in which you bring the same kind of improved attention that you might get from formal practice to everyday situations. This involves directing your full and non-judgemental attention to the activity you’re undertaking at a particular moment – it might be washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, chatting with a friend or studying
Why is mindfulness useful?
In our busy world, it is easy for our attention to be directed to a number of different things all at once. This can often lead to feeling overwhelmed and restless. By training in mindfulness, we can learn to be less distracted, more present, and therefore more connected with the people and the world around us. In this way, we are actually living and experiencing life to the fullest. By practicing mindfulness, we are able to have a calm, clearer and content mind. This healthy mindset makes us less prone to being emotionally reactive during the highs and lows and our successes and setbacks. We can physically train our body day in, day out, but it is just as important to train the mind through mindfulness. If we’re not also looking after our mind, then we are not maximizing our highest potential.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
The benefits of mindfulness are vast and include:
- reduced worry, anxiety and distress
- enjoying better energy levels
- creating a sense of calm
- learning how to relax and regulate emotions
- enhanced awareness and creativity
- improved concentration and increased productivity
- developed sense of empathy and connectedness
- better quality sleep and health
How do I practice mindfulness in my everyday life?
Mindfulness practice allows you to slow down and create the space to check in with your mental health. Starting a mindful practice, like any new skill or exercise, takes practice. The more often you practice taking these quiet moments, the more benefits you’ll experience. To help begin this practice and weave it into your everyday life, start by creating a regular time to sit, unwind and focus on your breathing – this may be the first thing in the morning, on your lunch break or before bed. Be mindful of how your feeling – what physical sensations you are experiencing? What noises can you hear around you? Let the thoughts that pop into your head during this mindfulness practice come and go, without judgment or frustration. Using mindfulness apps with guided meditations are an excellent tool to help begin this mindfulness practice and to continue to enjoy it in your everyday life. Headspace, Smiling Mind and Calm are organisations which offer excellent resources and meditation apps that you can download to start your mindfulness journey.