I imagine most of you will have heard of mindfulness by now, but I doubt very much that all who have heard about it practise it. Mindfulness has many health benefits and is one of the approved treatments by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) for depression and anxiety. You don’t have to suffer from mental health issues though to reap the benefits of it and enhance your life. Practising mindfulness can make us calmer, less stressed and improve our general wellbeing.
Mindfulness is a concept that in essence means “purposefully paying attention, in the present moment, without making any kind of judgement”. It is a way of being, a way of life, rather than a medicine, treatment plan or rehabilitation programme.
Although many people who practise mindfulness do so through meditation, it is not necessary to meditate if that’s not your thing. Small changes can make a big difference. Next time you do an everyday task such as the washing up (which will be sooner for some than others!), pay particular attention to the bubbles: the sounds you can hear, the shapes you can see, the sensations you can feel and the aromas you can smell. When eating your next meal take your time to chew each mouthful, concentrating on each and very taste and any feelings that arise.
My favourite above all though is when out walking – take time to observe the nature around you, the sound of the birds, the sight of the colourful flowers, the sensation of the breeze. It sounds poetic for a reason, it will bring you comfort and lift your spirits – I’d be amazed if it doesn’t lift your mood – even if only slightly.
When visiting South Lakes Zoo recently I absorbed the delight of these Macaw birds (see picture) with mindful curiosity. I paid attention to the exotic colours of their feathers, the rapidity of their movements, and their behaviour towards each other. I came out of the “amazon enclosure” beaming from ear to ear and all ready to plan my trip to the rainforest.
We can also be mindful of ourselves, bringing ourselves the compassion we would give to others. The mantra “treat others how you want to be treated” is reversed here – “TREAT YOURSELF HOW YOU TREAT OTHER PEOPLE” – don’t let that inner self-critic in your head dominate, give yourself a little forgiveness and cut yourself some slack – go with the flow every now and again instead of being a perfectionist and setting too high standards for yourself.
There is much more to say about mindfulness, and I will blog more about it in the future – for now, to find out more, check out www.mrsmindfulness.com, the book “Mindfullness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and “Practical Mindfulness, a step-by-step guide” by Ken Verni. Free meditations can also be downloaded from www.freemindfulness.org and there are many Apps available such as “Headspace”.