What is mindfulness?
Our busy lives can sometimes take over. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to do all the things we need to, and everything feels like it has to be done in a rush. Everyday. It can make us feel we’re losing who we are. And disconnected from the world around us.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present. It is being aware of our own feelings and thoughts. Mindfulness is being attentive to what’s happening, to what we’re doing and how we’re feeling. Mindfulness is accepting it all without judgement. But with kindness.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Mindfulness can result in greater self-awareness and allows us to be kind to ourselves. Mindfulness encourages us to release our natural curiosity about how our minds work. Being mindful invites us to experience life with warmth and compassion, to ourselves and others. Mindfulness can help us understand ourselves better and help us enjoy life more. It enables us to experience feelings of contentment, empathy for others and resilience in our own lives.
By becoming more mindful we start to take notice and experience things that we may previously have taken for granted – we begin to take pleasure in the everyday. By being mindful, we start to reconnect with our own creativity and start to feel inspired more by the natural energy and joy in the world around us.
Mindfulness allows us to check and regulate our thoughts and emotions. And not to overreact or feel overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness teaches us to respond with greater understanding and flexibility.
The science behind mindfulness
Scientific research into mindfulness is growing at an exceptional rate since the year 2000. Leading institutions around the world, including Oxford, Cambridge, UCLA, Stanford and Harvard have all published a myriad of papers reporting beneficial effects of mindfulness training. Even if practiced for just 30 minutes a day mindfulness can have a profound impact on our stress levels, our physical health and our emotional well-being.
Stress can have a dramatic impact on us, from how our bodies function and how we experience life. Stress can distract us from enjoying our lives. And it can get in the way of attempting to sort out the very issues causing it. Science confirms that stress can contribute to physical illness and unwelcome health conditions. So, dealing with stress is important.
When we develop our ability to be present, we also develop a sense of self-awareness. Awareness of our feelings, thoughts and emotions. We learn to recognise the stress triggers. And to respond with effective strategies sooner.
How does mindfulness have such a beneficial impact?
Our brain is adaptable to change if we give it the opportunity. Research has shown that consistent mindfulness training can demonstrate powerful changes in the brain. Changes that lead to growth of key areas associated with how we regulate our emotions and how we concentrate. And changes that reduce the density of the region of the brain associated with the stress response, fear and anxiety.
How to practice mindful meditation
We are all able to be present and mindful already. Mindfulness doesn’t need us to change who we are. The first step towards mindfulness is taking notice of your thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to the sounds and sensations of your breathing. And bring your attention back to it whenever your mind starts to wander.
At the beginning, your mind will undoubtedly start to wander as we are more used to thinking of a string of things in rapid succession. We are so often lost in sadness, anger or unresolved grief and other issues. We worry about the past and we worry about the future. It can feel as if you’ll never get the hang of slowing those thoughts and your mind down.
But with patience and regular training, our minds can learn to be calmer. Being mindful doesn’t mean you switch off those racing thoughts or feelings. Being mindful means learning how to observe them without judgement. And ultimately, understanding them better too.
You can learn mindfulness on your own. And mindfulness will be more readily available to you the more you practice. Remember that mindfulness is the same as learning any other skill. It can take time. But that’s ok, there’s no rush. Think of learning mindfulness as a journey. And keep practicing.
The mindfulness journey can be easier with a facilitator
That’s where I come in. Whether you’re a beginner, or have been practicing mindfulness for years or need peer to peer supervision, I can guide you to access a greater depth in your mindfulness practice.
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