The concept of mindfulness, however practiced, helps you not to fret over what’s happened or to worry over what’s to come, explains Neill Boddington, a mental health adviser at The Open University.
Being mindful, he says, is a technique your can develop where you pause, just be in the present to be more aware of your thoughts, emotions, your body and your surroundings.
This can help you to:
- establish where there is negative and harmful thinking,
- Know how your body is reacting i.e. faster heartbeat,
- And be more self-aware.
Make kinder choices
Neill adds: “With a greater sense of self-awareness, you can then be able to make kinder choices for your own wellbeing.
“Mindfulness is a useful tool to help stop your brain from hijacking your thoughts towards worries, anxieties, regrets etc. These thoughts, and others like them, can act to self-sabotage us.
“To practice mindfulness correctly, we need to recognise our thoughts and to non-judgmentally decide whether they are a help or hinderance. Sometimes, being mindful is to ignore all thoughts and to only allow yourself to focus on one thing…that maybe your breathing, a tree, or even preparing dinner.
“It can help us to recognise that thoughts are just events that will pass, that they are thoughts – not facts and that we do not need to be defined by our thoughts alone.”
7 exercises for mindfulness
- Notice five things you can see, acknowledge five things you can hear, focus on five things in contact with your body.
- Start a bullet journal.
- Use a mood tracker.
- Create an affirmation that resonates with you, frequently revisiting it throughout the day.
- Take some time to colour.
- Use your daily exercise as time to be mindful – document the small details around you rather than forgetting them. Take time to notice new things in your environment that you may have missed before.
- Play your favourite song – dance, sing along and focus on the lyrics, notice the memories and emotions that the song evokes.
What do you know about mindfulness?
Here are some mindfulness mythbusters:
- Mindfulness is relaxation. It can aid relaxation, but it is quite different. Relaxation is often a welcome side effect, but it is not the intention.
- Mindfulness is a distraction. No, it is waking up to the present moment.
- Mindfulness is a quick fix. While you might not need to spend much time each day practising mindfulness, the effects are powerful and sustainable (very unlike a ‘quick fix’).
- Is mindfulness religious? No, mindfulness is a secular practise that draws on ancient Buddhist practices, but is carefully adapted for the modern day and incorporates psychological education.
- I’m not feeling calm enough to practice mindfulness. You don’t have to be calm to practice mindfulness, it’s more about paying attention to the present moment and your reality with compassion and curiosity – regardless of what emotion your experiencing.
- Mindfulness is just the latest fad. Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) has been an effective tool for managing and reducing chronic pain and stress since 1979. Mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is as or more effective than anti-depressants in preventing depression relapse and the after effects of a trauma.