Do you live life on autopilot with a constantly wandering mind? While living like this is largely considered the norm, it has both physical and mental health implications. The ability to pause, take a breath, quieten the chatter and embrace mindful living and a purposeful lifestyle has a plethora of benefits.
I must admit to being a latecomer to mindfulness and meditation. My preference has always been to be busy rather than still. Too much time on my hands generally leads to spiraling anxiety. But, when my amazing physio advised me to take up diaphragmatic breathing and being busy was no longer an option (thanks Covid) I ventured into the world of mindfulness, adopting a more mindful lifestyle and embracing meditation.
What is mindfulness?
The term ‘mindful living’ has become popularised in the last few years but do we really know what it means? The definitions proffered often seem rather blurry and open to interpretation. Most carry a common thread however of presence, appreciation, awareness and reflection.
Mindfulness is not new, it has been around for thousands of years. Many people associate mindful living with meditation and yoga, the benefits of which have applauded in recent years. Mindfulness can describe many practices, but fundamentally it means coming back to the present moment, of being holistically aware.
The Oxford Dictionary defines to be mindful as:
– conscious or aware of something: “I arrived home for the summer, ever mindful of my obligations to my parents”
– focus one’s awareness on the present moment, especially as part of a therapeutic or meditative technique: “tune in and be mindful”
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing and understanding what is going on inside and outside of ourselves.
It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says.
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.
It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.Mindfulness – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
By embracing mindfulness we live more consciously, we are more awake, more aware.
Mindfulness is often seen as an abstract concept and difficult to achieve
Some people find it difficult to practice mindfulness. Of this Professor Williams says
It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.
Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing ‘thought buses’ coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.
Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking.”Mindfulness – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Mindful attention is immersing oneself in the present moment.
The difference between mindfulness and meditation.
Meditation, often known as the formal practice of mindfulness is usually practiced seated or lying down in a quiet place, with eyes closed and no interaction with others.
Mindfulness can be done anywhere using every sense. A person can be seated, standing, walking and with others. Any day to day activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it.
The benefits of mindfulness and mediation
- Achieving a sense of calm
- Relieve stress and anxiety
- Decrease irritability and aggression
- Improves mental clarity
- Increases body awareness
- Improve Sleep
- Find Clarity
- Helps us respond rather than react
By practicing mindfulness you will develop the skills to relax, be less reactive and live a more conscious life.
How do we introduce mindfulness into our lives?
- Take time each day to be fully present
- Appreciate what is around us
- Reflect on our intentions
- Observe your breath
- Get connected with your senses
- Take a break from technology
There are thousands of websites and apps dedicated to the pursuit of mindfulness and meditation. YouTube is a great place to start for free meditation guidance and practice. Apps include Calm, Headspace and The Mindfulness App.
Are you embracing a more mindful lifestyle as a result of lockdown?
Stay safe and well, Charlotte x