What is Mindfulness?
It’s a word thrown around here, there and everywhere, but exactly what is mindfulness? Let’s get the lowdown…
In short mindfulness is a practice that encourages us to be present in the moment we are in. By practicing mindfulness, we learn to take notice of what is going on around us. It helps us to notice the quality of our physical state, thoughts and feelings.
How do we do it?
It sounds ridiculously simple, but one the best places to start is by running through what our senses are experiencing. The first few times you do it you might feel like a child being asked to write a story at school. You might feel a bit self-conscious. I’ve said it before, but we don’t call it ‘practicing’ for nothing. It takes practice. By working through your senses, you are taking stock of the moment, and beginning to appreciate the small things.
By noticing the process of drinking a cup of tea or going for a walk with your senses engaged, you are allowing yourself to stop “’living ‘in your head’. Caught up in your thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving your emotions and behaviour”. This quote comes from Professor Mark Williams who was the former director of former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. He’s interviewed for the NHS website and it’s really straightforward and accessible. He sums up for a lot of us where we spend most of our conscious time – in a whirlpool of to-do-lists, small anxieties, big worries, imagined catastrophes.
What are the benefits?
By being in the moment, and being present in the everyday we may come to look at things with fresh eyes. Perhaps, stop taking things for granted (here’s a link to my blog on gratitude for more on this). With time we can also start to be a little more objective about our more complex feelings, being able to name them and analyse why there are present.
At the time of writing this blog, in the UK we are entering the fifth week of lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are more than ever at risk of ‘living in our heads’. We might be encountering emotions such as worry, panic, boredom, anxiety and frustration. Now’s as good a time as any to try mindfulness. We might come out the other side of this knowing ourselves a bit better.