Mindfulness seems to be the latest buzzword, but what is mindfulness?
Is it really so powerful it can help with depression, anxiety and even improve your health with just a few minutes a day?
According to Google mindfulness is ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’
Here’s my definition of mindfulness
Being aware of everything that is arising in the present moment without getting caught up, labelling, judging or resisting.
Doesn’t mindfulness sound simple? In its minimalistic form being mindful is slowing down and calmly being at ease with the world outside as well as your internal sensations such as thoughts and feelings.
So, if it is so simple why is mindfulness so hard to do?
We spend most of our lives on automatic pilot, controlled by our subconscious mind. Although you may feel you are in control of your life, you’re not, most of the time. Remember when you drove your car and cannot remember how you went through a particular village? That’s what our lives are like most of the time.
We are complete habitual creatures just repeating actions based on what is happening in our lives at the time. The key to mindfulness is becoming aware when we are in the infinite loop of our habits and consequently breaking out of it and not allowing it to control us.
One mindfulness breath
Take a deep breath, become aware that your breathing and take notice of all the little feelings that go along with the beginning of the breath right through to the end. The feelings in your nose and mouth, your chest rising and your lungs filling. The small pause between breathing out and your chest returning to its natural position.
Congratulations, you’ve just become present.
While taking that breath, I suspect you were not worried, anxious or feeling depressed. You are simply just being in that moment with your breath. When was the last time you took notice of yourself breathing? Most people go days, weeks or even months without becoming aware that they are breathing. Become ill with a cold and you suddenly become aware of your breathing.
You’ve just experienced mindfulness in its purest simplest form. It’s the easiest way of practising it and it gives you an immediate experience of what life can be like when you are not judging, arguing, labelling, frustrated or blissfully somewhere else.
Mindfulness and Your Thoughts
Mindfulness is being aware of things that are arising not just in the outside world but also internally. Just like the sound that comes and goes so do your thoughts and feelings. We spend so much time hoping for peace of mind, moments of clarity where we are not thinking stuff up.
Guess what. There is no off switch.
When we’re mindful, we are aware of our thoughts and feelings. However, we do not go with them; we do not label them or judge them. We just allow them to come and go so we stop identifying ourselves with them.
Here is a ‘12 minute mindfulness guided meditation‘ to give you a little idea on what mindfulness is.
How Can Mindfulness Help Us
I will cover this in more detail as the series goes on over the next few weeks but here’s a brief overlook of how mindfulness can help us.
- It allows you to see the bigger picture which develops more compassion, empathy, and better understanding.
- It stops you grasping and attaching ourselves to the things that we have no control over. Ultimately, everything is temporary.
- It equally stops us pushing, blocking or disconnecting from things we do not desire.
- It can help with depression because it gives us more control in our lives not just over our thoughts and feelings but how we interact with the world.
- It helps with anxiety because we stop living in the future and therefore worrying about events that most of the time do not happen.
- It improves our health because we are calmer which reduces the strain on our hearts.
- We will find it easier to see other people’s perspective through their eyes which reduce our excessive need to make everybody see it from our point of view.
The list is almost endless. However, I’m sure you get the point.
Mindfulness and Meditation
If you haven’t tried my 12-minute meditation above I would urge you to do so, although it is not necessary.
There are three main types of meditation.
- Concentration: This is where you will concentrate on your breath, sounds or feelings. If your mind does wonder, you return to whatever you’re choosing to focus on.
- Complete Acceptance: This is where you allow anything to arise and go again without following or judging.
- Love and kindness: This meditation is about bringing people into your heart and showing compassion caring towards them and yourself.
Granted, these are the meditations in their simplest form. There are many variations of each one and there are some I have not mentioned like transcendental meditation. I don’t think it’s relevant or necessary.
Mindfulness is about complete acceptance but it differs from the full acceptance meditation because you do not put time aside as you would a meditation. Very typically you would get into a meditation pose, close your eyes and meditate for a certain amount of time. Mindfulness is about bringing it to everyday life, while talking to somebody, dealing with your children or just walking in the park.
Having a reasonable meditation practice will help your mindfulness practice but you do not need to have both.
What can you expect from my mindfulness series?
Over the coming weeks, I will explore mindfulness in depth and also share some guided meditations and exercises that will help you to become more mindful and aware more often during the day.
If you would like to keep up-to-date with the series, please sign up to my newsletter and I will send you a download link to the above meditation so you can put it on your phone or anywhere you like.