Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness. You’ve probably heard of the term. But what is it? And how do you achieve it?
In the 21st century, we’re used to living life in the fast lane. We’re working harder and socialising more, always in search of the next adventure. But this way of modern living can be stressful. Ask yourself, how often do you feel overwhelmed? Is the answer more often than you’d like? That’s where mindfulness comes in! To be mindful is to be aware; to live, think and feel in the present moment.
Seems pretty straightforward, right? Not. At. All. When our minds take flight, it’s easy to lose touch with our body. We can fall victim to the niggling thoughts in the back of our mind, obsessing over tiny details and obstacles that are out of our control. Yet, no matter how far we’ve flown, mindfulness can snap our mind back to the present again.
It alleviates stress, increases the ability to problem solve and enhances positive emotion. But mindfulness doesn’t stop there; its physical benefits are unmatched! It’s been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and even combat heart disease.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few moments to breathe. Absorb your surroundings, clear your thoughts and focus on the present. Mindfulness is as simple as that.
So, how do I achieve mindfulness? Remember, mindfulness relies on awareness. At first, your mind will wander; ‘Did I finish my to-do-list?’ ‘What work do I need to complete tomorrow?’. But this isn’t to be feared! Achieving mindfulness takes time and it takes practice. Here are some exercises you can explore to help you on your way:
Meditation; it’s all the rage! One simple google search will reveal limitless mobile apps, guided practices and ‘how-to guides’. It’s no surprise then that over a third of us have practiced it at least once! Meditation focuses our thoughts, breathing and senses, resulting in better management of stress and anxiety.
So, what’s the best way to get down to it? Downloading an app would be a great place to start! We recommend Calm, Headspace or The Mindfulness App. You can also check out some top meditation tips here.
Art therapy has been used to foster healing and mental well-being for hundreds of years. Why? Because creativity relies on imagination and patience; we create art knowing that the end result, no matter how far it seems, will be rewarding. It’s an opportunity to hone in our focus and be totally present.
To get started, we recommend investing in a mindful colouring book. There’s plenty on the market! This article lays out some of the best.
Exercise is an all-rounder! For starters, it’s a natural anti-anxiety treatment; it enhances well-being through the release of endorphins which reduce tension and stress. It can alleviate low self-esteem and reduce social withdrawal. As for the physical benefits, do we really need to list them? Well, it supports your cardiovascular system, lowers cholesterol and strengthens muscle by boosted endurance.
Mindful eating can similarly support your journey. Beyond a nutritious diet, pay attention to the textures, tastes and smells of your food – how do they make you feel?
Journaling – don’t knock it until you try it! It’s one example of mindful reflection; taking the time to explore your thoughts and feelings in particular moments. But reflection goes further than that. Defined as ‘a careful thought, sometimes over a long period of time’, reflection allows us to self-examine our choices. What makes us happy? What do we need to work on to be happy?
The more we reflect, the better we recognise our self-worth for what it is.
And so your journey to mindfulness begins! The road ahead might seem long and winding, but on the horizon there’s a clearing. And it seems to be getting closer.