Mindfulness – What is it?

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One of my best friends (I only have two, I’m an INFJ personality type remember!) asked me recently to do a turn at one of her charity events which she has based around wellbeing to raise money for her village hall and surrounding playing fields.

“Can you do some of your Mindfulness stuff and guide visitors through a meditation? Oh and by the way, just tell them what mindfulness actually is!”

It occurred to me that, although this word gets a lot of attention, people don’t really understand what it is. So here you go…a little bit of info.

The mindfulness movement has gained popularity in the last couple of years as a popular self help tool and one which can be of use to many people, especially young adults who’s brains are like little sponges and are quicker to adapt.

That doesn’t mean us over 16’s shouldn’t bother though, it just might take us a bit longer to get into it, but believe me, it’s well worth the effort.

Mindfulness has roots in some ancient Eastern meditation traditions – don’t worry! it doesn’t require us to train for years in a monastery and take a vow of silence. Mindfulness is indeed easily adapted into modern living, hence it’s popularity.

So, what is it? I found this the easiest definition courtesy of Gina Beigel, MA, LMFT who designed and developed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Teens program which I have studied and use often in my role as a school counsellor.

“Mindfulness is noticing your thoughts feelings and physical sensations in the present moment”

So, basically it’s about taking a moment to just, well, be in the moment. Often mindfulness practice for beginners can include mindful eating or mindfully taking a shower. this would include using all 5 of your senses to undertake these tasks. These practices work well because they take everyday occurrences that we tend to move through on autopilot and encourage us to experience them as a whole.

So why bother? I already know how to eat and how to shower!

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This is the bit that fascinates me (I know! I’m a geek!). Recent research featured on the BeMindful website tells us that mindfulness practice has shown itself to be as effective if not more so than standard treatments such as anti-depressants. Great news for our amazing grey matter which once again seems to outdo even the cleverest medical innovations! And its free! And there are no side effects!

Actually, there are side effects which include, better ability to sleep, increased sense of well being, reduction in stress or anxiety levels.

It seems that slowing down our thinking and concentrating on a a visual cue, a sound or our breathing; is a bit like when we exercise our muscles at the gym and the more we do it, the fitter we get. Now that sounds like my kind of exercise!

So why not give it a try, next time you are having a shower, try this…

  1. What can you see?
  2. What can you hear?
  3. What can you smell?
  4. What can you taste?
  5. What can you touch?

Try it with other everyday activities like walking the dog or eating your lunch. See it as special time with your most important companion…your Brain!

 

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