Updated: May 4
Mindfulness is the practise of being present and paying attention with our current actions, behaviours and thoughts in the moment. Mindfulness is defined as a “non-judgmental state of awareness that allows us to observe our mental state, which leads to self acceptance and a better self-understanding” (Jon Kabat-Zinn). Being in a “mindful” state allows us to let go of the automatic judgements that arise in our minds with every experience we have. It is a reality that the present moment is what it is. To be in this state of mind has a lot of benefits.
Benefits of mindfulness:
There are hundreds of mindfulness studies conducted that have shown huge benefits of such a simple practise. Studies usually involve participants filling out a before and after questionnaire, based on the different variables being studied. Different results have shown the benefit of mindfulness over a stated period.
Getting better sleep.
Making progress toward your goals.
Lowering your stress levels.
Banish temporary negative feelings.
Managing chronic pain.
Help prevent depression relapse.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as improving self-esteem and increasing levels of calmness. There is an increase of teachers using mindfulness techniques in their classrooms. You may have heard of the “Calm” app. The app is number one for meditation, relaxation and sleep. Over 32 million downloads have been made with 75,000 users per day (as of 2018). Teachers have been known to adapt the techniques into their own lives before delivering mindfulness to their students, it has also helped a lot of classrooms find calmness and clarity in hectic situations.
We are all guilty of letting our mind get the better of us, through overthinking and creating scenarios that are unlikely to happen. Everything we experience is processed in our brains. Some situations and experiences are known as “good” ones, we are able to hold onto what we have and want more. We have “bad” ones which is where we tend to run, resist and hide from them. We also have “neutral” ones where we hardly pay enough attention to them. These are said to make up the nature of our minds and how we perceive experiences and situations. These can be useful to us. We are energised from them and we feel like they have a purpose.
Why does being “non-judgmental” matter?
Practising mindfulness means we are paying attention on purpose to the present time. This creates peace, freeness and an open mind for us to see the beauty in everyday experiences, just by simply paying more attention to them. We are also able to practise letting go of a desire to look for “more” in situations, for example money or power. By telling yourself that you need to reach for more all the time stops you from actually seeing the beauty in what you have already achieved. Of course you can strive to push yourself but being mindful means you appreciate the current moment as much as you can, the need to be doing more can cause a lot of dissatisfaction and negative feelings. Mindfulness allows us to be at peace and not take what we have for granted.
How can I practise mindfulness meditation?
This is a process of trying to understand the quality of non-judgement. When we meditate, we gently return our wandering minds back to the object of awareness. Of course it is extremely difficult to stay in the moment all the time, which is why mindfulness encourages us just to return our minds back to the current moment, whilst taking into account our breathing and senses.
Realise when you are judging yourself or your situation. Understand the exact thoughts in your mind and body.
Remind yourself it is okay to have these thoughts but we should not be thinking too much about them.
Bring your mind back to your object of focus, move forward and stay present to the experience you are currently in.
Try this quick exercise.
First, your current senses. You can start by closing your eyes in a safe place, your garden, your room etc. Bring awareness to what you are currently thinking. Pay attention to all the senses around you at the moment. Sit comfortably. If any thoughts come to mind acknowledge them but bring your focus back to your current state and senses.
Next, breathing: Take a few deep breaths and pay attention to how your body is feeling at the moment. Think about the movements your body makes and the way your chest rises and falls. Find a pattern with this.
Finally, awareness of the outer environment: Once you find a rhythm with your breathing, allow yourself to think about the environment around you. What sensations do you feel? Is your body relaxed or tense? What colours, shapes and textures do you see around you? Do this for a few minutes. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and use this simple thought process throughout the day.
The main point of the exercise is to help you understand your current self and to be in touch with the present moment. We want to be more aware of our judgments to provide a healthy process cycle in our minds, but we also do not want to try and spend too much energy thinking about the ones we can not change. There are loads of different exercises you can practise, such as guided meditation through a sound recording, or mantra meditation, which is where you would repeat a word over and over again.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about mindfulness. Our days can get hectic really quickly. Finding the time to look after ourselves whenever we can with such positive benefits is a must. Have a go, try these exercises over a few weeks and see if you can notice a change. If you really want a challenge, fill out an online questionnaire to find out your current stress or anxiety levels, stick to a mindfulness routine every day for a month, fill out the same questionnaire again, and see if mindfulness has worked for you!
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