At first, mindfulness can seem quite an intangible concept however as with any technique, daily practise will highlight its simplicity and usefulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art of focus, paying attention in a particular manner to the present moment without judgement. We may focus on particular smells, thoughts, sights, sounds or physical sensations that are usually ignored or go unnoticed. Through being mindful we can not only increase awareness and clarity but be more accepting of our current situation. Mindfulness also helps to increase productivity, reduce stress and anxiety.
“Through mental training you can increase positive thoughts and reduce negative thoughts. I can tell you, with conviction, through effort we can change our mental attitudes” ~ Dalai Lama
Being mindful allows us to live comfortably in the present and gain enjoyment from this without the worry of the past which we cannot change, or the future which is yet to happen.
However, such diligence requires practise. These skills require our minds to function in very different ways to our current cognitive process and one of the first steps is understanding the differences between a response and a reaction:
A response is often a considered and deliberate action to an experience or idea.
A reaction is automatic, provides little opportunity for choice andoften the result of a thought or somatic feeling.
For the majority of us, responding to our thoughts is an everyday occurrence however when these thoughts cause us anxiety, stress and worry which depletes our ability to enjoy the present, we need to establish greater control over our thoughts and feelings to prevent disruption. The skills involved in being mindful allow us to respond to our experiences instead of reacting to our thoughts.
When we are involved in certain activities that allow our minds to wonder, we are most at risk of reacting instead of responding. As our minds are often focusing on something from the past or fantasising about future events, we are not focusing on our current experience. Mindfulness is the opposite of this.
How to get started
Find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for 10 minutes. Get yourself comfortable and loosen any tight clothing which could restrict breathing heavily. Decide on your intention – do you want to be more attentive without judgement? Are you looking to be re-energised and feel more awake? Or would you like to reduce stress and feel calmer?
Begin by taking a few deep breaths – be aware of the sensation physically. What does it sound like? How does it feel? Let your eyes focus softly on a particular spot in front of you. Focus purely on your breathing. Notice as thoughts begin to flow through your mind and bring your attention straight back to your breathing. You can count to 6 on the inhale and 8 on the exhale if this helps or simply say the words inhale and exhale if preferred.
Spend 5 minutes initially focusing on your breathing continuously bringing your attention back to the present when your mind wonders. You can increase this gradually the more you practise.
Once you feel comfortable in this process – combine it with an everyday activity to increase your mindfulness during the day. Its always advisable to begin with a few slow deep breaths and by stating your intentions.
HOW TO BE MINDFUL EVERYDAY
Three are a number of great ways you can integrate mindfulness into everyday life through combining your focus and breathing within an activity that you do daily. For example you could do this whilst brushing your teeth in the morning, focus on the sensations and sounds whilst doing so. Maybe during your morning commute to work – whilst walking or sitting on public transport – focus your attention to the smells and sounds. What can you see? what can you feel?
In everyday life it is hard to sometimes have such moments where we can be peaceful with ourselves for even a short period. If this is an obstacle for you then there are other ways in which being mindful can be incorporated into your daily routine.
- Practise when you wake up – even if you’re laying in bed (this could be coupled with an evening routine prior too sleep to which breathing excesses can be beneficial)
- Whilst eating breakfast or drinking your morning tea/coffee
- Keep it short – a few well spent minutes a day will slowly become an enjoyable habit. The more you practise the more you’ll want to create time for it.
- Flex your skills while you wait: many of us spend important minutes waiting. use you’re time more wisely and practise (at the doctors or dentist, before a meeting, queuing for coffee or food, at the supermarket checkout are a few options)
Being grateful on a daily basis allows us to understand what is making us feel happy, what is good within our lives and allows us to focus on the here and now. Hence, gratitude is an essential part of being mindful.
Try making a list every morning and night of 3-5 things you are grateful for that day. Not one can this amplify the experience of being present but allows us to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and instills a new way of approaching each day.
An essential part of learning to practice mindfulness is learning to breathe efficiently.
Begin to focus on your breathing (I’ve included a very simple breathing exceersie below for guidance). Allow your thoughts to come and go, no matter what they may be – simply observe them without any judgement or analysis.
Take a deep breath in for 6 seconds
Hold it for 2
Breather out for 8 seconds
Repeat 4-6 times.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into Mindfulness. Should you choose to delve into mindfulness practise, that you enjoy it and reap the rewards. Mindfulness can be an enlightening part of everyday life and give those who choose to practise a new perspective on what can otherwise be described as the daily grind.
For more ideas on being Mindful daily take a look at these articles:
NB: All photographs taken by Carys Griffiths using a Nikon D3200.