Mindfulness & how it can change our lives
Mindfulness is the skill of being able to bring our attention to what we want to focus on. How often do we find our minds have drifted of the task we are on and we are lost in some memory or thinking about the future? Mindfulness is about being able to bring the mind into the ‘now’ and be fully present in the present moment. It is the skill of being able to recognise when the mind has wandered and then gently bring it back to the present. It also involved being able to notice, without any judgement, our current thoughts, sensations, emotions and urges, without getting caught up in them. In this way we can then choose when to act on these thoughts and emotions, rather than just rerating instinctively and impulsively. We can choose to just observe these sensations without having to respond in any physical, or even mental way. There is a very strong body of scientific research that has shown these techniques can be very beneficial in treating psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, but also help enhance resilience in all people, and generate higher levels of satisfaction and happiness with life.
In understanding mindfulness it is helpful to think of the mind like an untrained puppy that is running around chewing up shoes and destroying things in the house. We cannot put the puppy in a box (or we shouldn’t certainly do that!). Rather we need to notice when the puppy has run off and teach it how to come back when we call. This is a skill that can take considerable practice. When starting to practice mindfulness it is helpful to start with an object in order to practice focusing the mind. For example, you could hold something in your hand and feel its texture, or you could stare at a candle flame or other object. As you become more experienced you can then practice mindfulness of certain bodily sensations such as the breathe, or complete a body scan. In the body scan you bring you attention to various parts of the body (head to toe or vice versa) and note any sensations within the body. These exercises are very grounding and keep you present in the present moment.
Mindfulness differs from meditation in that meditation is usually done as a sitting practice, whereas mindfulness aims to take these skills and incorporate them into everyday life. Most mindfulness practitioners will aim to bring the same skills into everyday tasks. It can be helpful to start with one everyday task, such as washing the dishes, and then practice mindfulness during the task. even doing something as simple and automatic as opening a door can be chosen to be done mindfully. this level of mindfulness is extremely calming, as the mind does nt race from task to task, or from trying to fix problems (a very typical brain state!). People who practice mindfulness are often much calmer, less reactive and less stressed.
Taking the mind out of the past and all the things that have gone wrong, stepping back from thoughts about the future and all that could go wrong, and being fully present in the present. Mindful living is about being able to be present in a given moment, able to observe thoughts, sensations and emotions, but being able to rise above them all non judgementally and non-reactively. Bliss!