When you hear the word “mindfulness”, what comes to mind? For many of us, it’s thinking about travelling to some remote, serene location and spending days sitting with your legs folded. As idyllic as that sounds, it is not practical for most of us. But what if we told you, it is possible to practice mindfulness, and reap its benefits, wherever you are?
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, often confused with meditation, is the practice of fully immersing yourself in the current moment.
It sounds easy enough, but for many of us, this isn’t something that comes naturally, thanks to our modern lifestyle. How many times have you wandered through the shops, lost in thought, or tried to think back on what you did that day, only to find hours of lost time?
Mindfulness is all about being fully present in the moment, being completely aware of how your body feels, your emotions, and what’s around you. It’s about noticing all five senses and acknowledging what each of them are receiving.
Why practice Mindfulness?
Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Often when we feel anxious, we have what might be described as an out-of-body experience, or a panicky feeling, as though we’re spiraling out of control. Being mindful brings us back to reality, and into the current moment. By improving emotional regulation, and grounding yourself in the moment, it’s possible to hit pause on our “fight or flight” reaction long enough to appropriately evaluate the situation and remain calm.
The sense of calm and focus that mindfulness generates is not only great for our mental health in the moment but can actually have long-term benefits! Mindfulness helps us to focus on the task at hand, while improving our ability to remember and comprehend. Closely linked to the reduction in anxiety and stress, mindfulness helps to lift our mood and regulate our emotions which contributes to improved cognition if practiced long-term.
Get to know your body
Getting in touch with your body is so incredibly important for your health. Mindfulness can help you recognise tightness and discomfort within your body, so you can give attention to whatever areas need it. Mindful eating is also a great way to stop yourself from eating to the point of being ill or eating foods that cause discomfort.
When should I practice Mindfulness?
The beauty of mindfulness is that it can be practiced anywhere and anytime. It’s a lot easier to practice mindfulness on your own, but that is not to say you need to be in isolation. The best time to practice mindfulness is when you need to - if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or simply want to regain a bit of focus.
Practice mindfulness while you eat, at work, at home, before you go to sleep or as soon as you wake up. It’s completely up to you and what you need.
How do you practice Mindfulness?
As we mentioned earlier, the beauty of mindfulness is that it can be applied to many situations; exactly how you practice is completely up to you and your situation. The basic principle is to stop, breathe, and pay attention to your body, your mind and your surroundings. It is impossible to completely clear your mind, but try to slow it down, acknowledge thoughts that come into your head, without judgement, and let them pass.
In a couple of steps, here is a basic mindfulness practice you can try, whenever you need.
Take a Seat
Sit comfortably, whether that is on a chair, the floor or a pillow. Sit and relax, letting tension release as you feel it.
Pay Attention to your body
Focus your attention on how your body feels, recognising any tension, listening to your gut and taking note of everything your body is feeling. How does the floor feel, what temperature is your skin experiencing, is there any breeze etc.
Listen to your mind
Acknowledge the thoughts that sneak into your mind, without judgement, and let them pass, bringing your focus back to the current moment.
Notice your breath, focus on keeping it slow, deep and steady. Feel the air entering your lungs, breathing in through your nose, and out through your mouth, savouring each breath you take.