What is mindfulness and how can it help you lead a stress-free life?
Life can be so fast paced and there doesn’t seem to be any sign of it slowing down. Your mind may be filled with thoughts about work & career, kids, relationships, the house, bills, education, planning things etc. etc. Then there’s the information overload we get from the tv, radio, the internet. There just seems to be no getting away from it all. How often do you think I just need to give my mind a rest and get away from it all? Holidays are of course a great way to get away from it all but even then there’s no guarantees that the holiday won’t be stressful. Do you know you could have a holiday in your mind every day by following a Mindfulness practice?
So what is mindfulness? First of all, to understand what mindfulness is, it would be a good idea to look at the meaning of "mindless".
Mindless vs Mindfulness
The meaning of mindless
Mindless is defined as "marked by a lack of mind or consciousness, being unaware"
How often during the day do you do things mindlessly? Think about how often you mindlessly eat your food whilst thinking about what chore you've got to do next? How often do you go for a mindless walk whilst thinking about the previous activities of the day? How often do you watch a sunset whilst fretting over some event that occurred in the past?
Just think of all of the experiences that you are missing out on because you are doing things mindlessly.
The meaning of mindfulness
So now lets look at the meaning of mindfulness it is defined as "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment and one thing".
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment. Which means that:
Whilst you are eating your food all you are thinking of are the colours, the aromas, tastes, textures.
Whilst you are going for a walk you are noticing everything that you can hear, feel, smell see, touch in that moment.
Whilst you are watching the sunset all you are focusing on is the magnificence of what you can see.
Just think how much more enjoyable your life would be
if all you did was savour every moment.
Research into the positive effects of mindfulness
A study was performed to identify the effects of mindfulness meditation on stress reduction, mood disturbance & symptoms in 90 cancer patients. The patients followed an 8 week programme during which time that had to meditate every day and were given mindfulness exercises to do through the day. At the end of the 8 weeks the patients had seen an overall reduction in total mood disturbance of 65%, they experienced a 31% reduction in symptoms of stress. The treatment group also had fewer cardio-pulmonary & gastrointestinal symptoms.
Benefits of mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness has also been shown to:
Improve heart disease
Lower blood pressure
Reduce chronic pain
Alleviate gastrointestinal issues
Improve immune system
Increase mental agility
Slow down the ageing process
So how do you learn to be mindful?
Being mindful is easy, but it is the practice that is the difficult part, however, perseverance will certainly reap its rewards.
A mindfulness practice would normally involve taking part in a mindfulness meditation in the morning (usually 10 minutes) and another in the evening, along with exercises in being mindful through the day.
A basic mindfulness meditation would involve:
Sitting or lying in a comfortable position.
Focusing your mind on your breath, a mantra, body sensations, a candle etc.
Noticing when your mind has wandered off (which it will do) and bringing it back to your chosen point of contact
Every time the mind wanders you notice where it has wandered and then gently bring it back
A mindfulness exercise would involve single-tasking by doing and thinking about one thing at a time. Therefore, when you eat all you think about is what you are eating, when you walk all you think about is the walk, when you watch a sunset all you think about is the sunset. Just like the meditation, once you notice that your mind has wandered you just bring it back to the task in hand. To get the most out of everything you do, it is important to slow down the process and be fully present as each moment unfolds.
An 8 week mindfulness practice may include daily meditations, tasks to include mindfulness into your daily life, exercises in gratitude, compassion and letting go.
The more you practice Mindfulness the less you worry, the more you get out of each moment and the more profound it comes.
You can learn more by reading "Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World" by Mark Williams. There are also plenty of guided mindfulness meditations on Youtube that you could try.
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only, always check with your GP first before embarking on any health regime.