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.
A lot of time in our day to day lives is spent thinking about the past, worrying about the future and focusing on everything else apart from what we are actually doing…right now.
We all possess the ability to be ‘mindful’. It is not a strange skill that you have to learn over years and years. We are all capable of being mindful and it is certainly a tool that we can all utilise whenever we need to find a small piece of calm or relaxation.
- Reducing Stress
- Enhancing Performance
- Increased Attention
- Insight and Awareness into our own minds
We can be mindful anywhere. You may have heard of mindful walking, mindful eating or mindful meditation. Basically we can ‘be mindful’ in every activity we do. It is about having the ability to concentrate wholly on the ‘now’. Clearing your mind of the worry and stress of past events and future events.
We can also refer to our busy minds as a ‘monkey mind’. Jumping from one thought to another constantly and building that feeling of overwhelm because we just can’t handle all of these different thoughts.
For me when I think of mindfulness I naturally think of music, nature, breathing and meditation. The calming aspects of one or all of these helps me become mindful. You can rely on mindfulness in any situation. If you are on a busy train or in a crowded city street it is very simple to switch off and simply concentrate on what is happening around you.
The term mindfulness conjures up a different picture for everyone…what do you think of?
You may use the physical elements around you to concentrate on like people, buildings, the sky, noises or you may decide to switch off and close your eyes and simply concentrate on your breath or maybe your body. I generally have music wherever I go and never leave the house without headphones of some kind so I find music helps me relax and create a feeling of calm.
Mindfulness does not have to be just about getting away from stress and overwhelm. Believe it or not it can just be nice to spend time with your own mind and your own feelings. Not because you are sad or stressed or angry but just simply because….why not.
I find things like body scans especially helpful in any situation. This is now becoming more of a Mindful Mediation. Meditation, I would say, is about achieving a higher state of awareness. So by being mindful we are naturally creating that ability to be more aware of our own bodies and our own minds.
Body scans are just that. It is starting let’s say at the top of the head and simply feeling whatever is there…tingling sensations, pain, tightness or nothing. You then accept what is there and move down to the forehead, ears, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth, neck, shoulders and continue all the way down the body. This could be a few minutes or 30 minutes.
We are not trying to think ‘why’ is this feeling here and trying to solve the tingling or numbness but we are just trying to notice it and accept it and then move on. We may have tightness in our shoulders and neck but this is a common place to store stress and anxiety so this may be when our breathing techniques come in.
Think about the idea of trying to breathe into this area. I know it sounds a little strange but the idea is that during the body scan you identify this tight area or painful area and then using your breath you breathe into this area and try and relax as you do. Almost like sending a healing breath directly to that affected area.
Mindful breathing is a fantastic tool to start introducing in to your day to day life…
When we train I always say to people that you must think about that specific muscle you are working. If we are doing Core exercises then specifically think about the core. This will make you engage those muscles and give you a better, more directed, workout.
The same can be said for mindful meditation. When we do our body scan we are thinking completely about that one part of the body. Then if we need to we send a healing breath to that area. Imagine breathing in the healing air and as you feel it enter your body sending it directly to that area of the body that you feel tightness and stress…then as you breathe out you are expelling the tightness and stress. In with the good and out with the bad.
This is just one example of mindful meditation at work. There are lots of different kinds and techniques. Everyone is different and will find what works for them. As I have said for me it is Mindful Breathing and Body Scans that I normally use.
My other go-to mindful tool is simply music. Soothing, calming music that I can sit back and relax to. I like to think about the music and how it makes me feel. That is great escapism to me and certainly something I use regularly. I try and imagine the music as it’s made…the instruments…the sounds…the feeling of the music. Quite often this will then slip into a kind of meditation with breathing techniques but not always.
Music is what I use to be more mindful in most situations…
Mindfulness does take practice. Being Mindful is a skill that we all naturally have but we have such busy lives and busy minds that initially the moment we try and think about nothing but ‘the now’ is the exact moment that every other thought starts jumping around our minds. The ‘monkey mind’ will always strike.
What we need to learn is not to get angry or annoyed about this. If we begin a body scan, or concentrating on our breath, and we find our minds inevitably wanders off then it is when we notice this has happened that we come back to our home point or base. We don’t get angry or annoyed. We simply notice that it has happened and then come back to our breath or back to our body scan and continue.
Then when it happens again, which it will, we just recognise this and come back again and so on. With time and practice you will get longer and longer bouts of mindfulness.
When I talk about our home point or base I mean we should each have a place on our body that we can concentrate all of our attention and feel whatever is there. I find it useful in a meditation or if I am trying to remain mindful. It may be feeling the air going in and out of your nose as you breathe or it may be your tongue in your mouth or maybe your hands and how they feel. We are looking at sensations, feelings, size or anything else you notice. We try and use 100% attention on this specific area. So if we find ourselves in a state of sudden overwhelm or a meandering mind we can come straight to this familiar point in our body and realise that everything is okay and almost take a moment and reset.
So the above is what mindfulness means to me with a splash of meditation, body scans and breathing techniques.
There is a lot to learn when it comes to mindfulness and meditation but sometimes it is the simplicity of something which is the allure. Mindfulness and Mediation is simple. It is something that we all have the skills to implement straight away and it is this simplicity which can be life changing.
Don’t overthink it…just give it a try.