Mindfulness is another term for being more aware of yourself, your thoughts and feelings and the world around you in the present moment. Reconnecting with your body and being aware of its physical sensations is an important part of this, as is being aware of the thoughts and feelings that you have minute to minute. Living in the present moment is key as it can help to positively change the way we see our lives.
How is it good for the body and the mind?
Being aware of the present moment can help us to fully appreciate the world around us and the experiences that we have available. Not only this but it can help us to better understand our own thought processes and how we experience events.
For someone experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression, therefore, mindfulness techniques can allow them to stand back from their thoughts and to identify negative thought patterns. Once they are aware of this, they can then begin to better deal with the issues affecting them and train themselves to notice when these sorts of thoughts begin to take over.
This sort of awareness also makes it easier to identify signs of stress and anxiety early on. NICE guidelines suggest mindfulness as a preventative measure for people who have experienced depression in the past.
Ways to be mindful
The NHS advise several ways that you can be mindful in your everyday life. These include:
Noticing the everyday. It may be a small thing but taking note of the small things in our daily lives and being aware of the sensations we experience can massively give us a new perspective on our lives. Try to break the ‘autopilot’ mode we often go about our day in by taking stock of your thoughts at intervals throughout the day.
Trying new things. Even making very small changes like taking a different route to work or eating something different for lunch has the potential to give you a new perspective and to notice the world in a new way.
Pick regular times. We can’t be mindful at every moment of the day so it is useful to pick certain moments in each day when you can decide to practise mindfulness. Your commute to work, a morning period of meditation or a regular walk during your lunch break are all good times to do this.
Watch your thoughts. It is important to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making negative thoughts and worries disappear, but viewing them as mental events. The trick is learning to process these thoughts in a positive way and allowing them to pass naturally without obsessing.
Name thoughts and feelings. Some people may find it helpful to give certain thoughts and feelings names in the process of being aware of them. For example: ‘This is frustration’ or ‘This is the worry over a deadline’.
Freedom from past and future. If you realise that you easily become trapped in reliving past problems or are obsessing over future worries it can be easier to take a mindful approach.
Active mindful practises such as yoga, tai-chi or meditation are also great ways to help you develop your awareness and to learn useful breathing and relaxation techniques. Courses on mindfulness are readily available online, or you can also find the details of a local mindfulness teacher to coach you.