Mindfulness - The importance of being in the moment
Mindfulness is a term that seems to be appearing everywhere at this moment in time. Its plastered across bill boards, the media are talking about, many famous people are practicing ‘mindfulness’, and even the Queen herself has been practicing becoming more ‘mindful’. But what is mindfulness and what are its benefits? Also how do you apply it to your life in a simple and easy way? Well let me perhaps help you with this and by the time you have read the rest of this article you too can become more ‘mindful’.
So what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about the importance of living right here, right now in the present moment of time, not being fixated in the past or worrying about the future. By doing so you will actually start to enjoy and be curious about the world around you and also what happens on the inside of you.
Let me explain, how did you get to work this morning? Did you drive, get the bus or walk? Whatever your method of transport you used, what did you actually notice on your journey from point A to point B. At this point, many say traffic lights and the traffic of other cars or even nothing. However there is much more than just that. What about:
Clouds in the sky
Parents walking their children to school
How many of these things did you see? Yet most of them were there around you on your journey but you ‘didn’t see them right? A lot of the time when we go about our daily lives we go into what is known as ‘automatic pilot’, where we aren’t really aware of what we are doing. This may also be applied to our general lives in how we life day to day in the fact that a lot of the time ‘we are not really here’.
Another way of demonstrating this is seen in our morning routine, which we do so many times during our lives. We don’t necessarily have to think about what we do, we just do it. Get up, have a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. It just becomes an automatic routine in our lives. But how conscious are you of your actions?
During your morning routine do you ever take notice of:
The smell of your shower gel
The taste of your toothpaste
The feel of your towel against your skin
The sound of water from the shower plashing off your body
When I point this out to people, many don’t notice any of these and things. A lot even to confess that from the minute they wake up in the morning they are already thinking about what they are going to do at work or food their going to eat in the evening, etc.
Another thing to point out that when we are on autopilot, we find that we react more easily to events around us (our buttons are easily pressed’. Our thoughts, feelings and body sensations in the mind can trigger old habits of thinking that are usually unhelpful, if not set off a downward spiral into a worsening mood. By actually becoming more mindful of our own thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, almost gives you a greater sense of freedom in our ability to respond in a more positive and productive way than adopting the usual default setting.
It is also clear to see how mindfulness can be applied to everyday life such as eating, getting dressed and even general day to day conversations with others. Also by being more ‘in the moment’ you will start to take more notice of your own thoughts and feelings. In doing so will allow you to respond more positively and productively to situations that happen around you.
A great way to summarise what we have talked about so far is to look at The ABC of mindfulness
A is for awareness. Becoming more aware of what you are thinking and doing – what’s going on in your mind and body.
B is for “just Being” with your experience. Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story.
C is for seeing things and responding more wisely. By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to, we can make wiser choices.
So what are the benefits of mindfulness?
The many general benefits of being more mindful. These include:
Recognising the need to slow down or stop automatic and habitual reactions to situations around you.
Responding more effectively to complex or difficult situations that happen in your life.
More able to achieve a greater balance and resilience at work and even within the home environment
Even according to ‘NHS choices’, research shows that regularly practicing mindfulness can improve well-being, lower stress and lead to improved psychological functioning .
What other examples are there of being mindful?
Well to answer this question let’s look at examples that constitute as not being mindful. These include:
Reacting emotionally in certain ways – feeling like an emotion just “came out of nowhere”.
Over multi-tasking, by doing several things at once rather than focussing on one thing at a time.
Breaking things, spilling things, clumsiness, accidents because of carelessness, inattention or thinking about something else.
Listening to someone with one ear while doing something else at the same time.
Daydreaming or thinking of other things when doing chores.
By this point, it should be more clearer now about what is mindfulness, the benefits of mindfulness and what it looks like (in sense from not being mindful examples)
So what activities or exercises can I do to become more mindful?
There are a number of formal practices that you can engage in to become more mindful. These include meditation, yoga and tai-chi. However there are two simple really simple methods that you can do to really help develop mindfulness in your life. These are:
Mindful sitting: To do this, first turn off your mobile phone, t.v and any other distractions. Then decide how long you have, maybe 5 minutes, or even 10 minutes (I find it useful to set an alarm on my phone). Then sit in a chair with your back straight, your hands resting in your lap and both your feet flat on the floor. Just close your eyes and just breath. Draw your attention to the air coming in at the nose and going out of the mouth. Just breath. If you find yourself becoming distracted by other thoughts, just imagine that they are like clouds in the sky and allow them just to pass by. Just breath and keep noticing your breath. Just breath. If you do get distracted by your thoughts, be kind to yourself and bring your attention back again to your breath. Remember this your time, time for you. Just breath and relax into the experience and enjoy it. That’s it as easy as that
This is a really fun activity that really demonstrates what it is like to be fully in the moment. To do this sit in a room without any distractions. The best way to demonstrate this exercise is to get yourself a raisin or even a chocolate biscuit (I’m going to explain this as if you do have a chocolate biscuit):
Place the chocolate biscuit in your hand and just look at it. What patterns do you notice on the surface of the biscuit? Is the light catching the surface of the biscuit in different ways?
…Move the biscuit around in your hand. What does it feel like in your hand as move it around?…
…Bring the biscuit up to the side of your head and scratch your finger across its surface next to your ear. What sounds do you notice when you do this?…
…I want you to bring the biscuit up to your nose and just smell it. What smells you notice?…
…I want you to break off a piece of the biscuit and just put it in your mouth on your tounge and slowly move it around without swallowing it. What can you taste?…
…Then eat the rest of the biscuit you have slowly.
Wow what an experience huh? On reflection although all you have done is eaten a chocloeate biscuit but I eating it in a more mindful way you should have found yourself being completely in the moment and noticing things that you have never perhaps thought about before when it comes ot eating a chocolate biscuit. I’m not saying do this for every chocolate biscuit you eat let every type of food you do consume.
But by just slowing down when you eat, just look at how miuch more you do notice and how you can apply this method of eliciting all your sense in all tasks that you do on a day to day basis. By this point I am confident that I have delivered what I have promised and the fact that I have shared with you two very simple methods of practicing mindfulness in your daily life.