What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, thought to create a feeling of calm.
Sometimes we rush through life without stopping to notice much. We lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling. And we stop taking in what’s going on in the world around us. We can get caught up in our thoughts, making us feel like we’re living ‘in our heads’ and we’re not stopping to notice how those thoughts are affecting our emotions and behaviour.
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means becoming aware of the sights, sounds, smells and tastes in the present moment.
Why is it important to be mindful?
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us to understand ourselves better and enjoy the world around us more.
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
“Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.
“Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: ‘Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?’”
How can I be more mindful?
Notice the everyday
Feel present in the moment. Notice your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you.
Try this: When you step outside your house, notice the sensation of the air moving past your body.
Keep it regular
Introduce mindfulness into your daily routine.
Try this: Pick a regular time, like when you have your morning coffee, to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
Try something new
Trying new things can help you notice the world in a new way.
Try this: Sign up to a new class, like pottery.
Watch your thoughts
“It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events,” says Professor Williams.
Try this: “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,” says Professor Williams.
Sit and be
Instead of constantly thinking about what you are going to do next, or something that happened in the past, observe the present moment as it is.
Try this: While you are on the tube or waiting to meet someone, don’t reach for your phone. Instead, take in the world around you.
Written by Flora Firth
About The Author
Flora is on her wellness journey and hopes to encourage you to join her. She’s proud to be voicing the importance of mind health in a world where we’re striving for unrealistic perfection.