In the self-care space there is a lot of talk about mindfulness but what is mindfulness? How does it work? Will it help with your mental wellbeing? These are hopefully questions that we can answer for you now.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a technique that has roots in Buddhism and meditation. It teaches you to notice what is happening in the present moment with your mind, body, or surroundings without making any judgements on it. The aim of mindfulness is to make you more self-aware, feel calmer and less stressed, be more able to choose how you respond to your thoughts and feelings, cope with unhelpful thoughts and be kinder to yourself. Lots of people find practising mindfulness helps them manage their day-to-day wellbeing especially with the use of apps such as Calm or Headspace. Trying to be mindful doesn’t work for everyone and like any skill, you need to work on it and practice to get the best out of it.
How does it work?
The way that we think and what we think about can have a massive impact on how we feel. For example, if we focus on the bad things that have happened to us, it will make us feel sad or upset. The idea behind mindfulness is that by using a variety of techniques to bring your attention to the present you can get control over your thought process. You will notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. This will help you realise that they don’t define you or your experience and that you can just let them go if they don’t serve you. You will also notice what your body is telling you such as when you are tense you can feel this through an increased heartbeat, tense muscles, or shallow breathing. Mindfulness will also help you create some calmness with your thoughts so that you can create some space to assess them and move on.
Will it help with my mental wellbeing?
Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can help to manage depression, some forms of anxiety and feelings of stress. As with all treatments, it will work better with some people than others and you have to try to find what works best for you.
Mindfulness exercises you can try
- Mindful eating
- Mindful moving
- Body scan
- Mindful colouring
- Mindful meditation
How to get the most from mindfulness exercises
Take note when your mind wanders. It is something that your mind does, just notice where your thoughts have drifted to.
- Return to the present
Bring your attention back to the present moment and focus on your breath or another feeling in your body.
Be aware of how you are feeling and what your body is telling you. Try to observe and accept the feelings without judgement.
Be kind to yourself as your mind will wander. Try not to be too critical of yourself and when you do feel yourself wandering off, gently bring your mind back to the practice.
Set aside some time each day for your practice so that it doesn’t get missed. Regular short periods will help you get to grips with it to start with.
- Get comfortable
Find somewhere that you can sit comfortably without distractions.
- Take it slow
Take the time to build up your practice slowly. As with any new skill, you won’t get it overnight and it will take time to develop. It can be hard to stick with at first especially for long periods so build it up gradually.
Be patient with yourself. There’s no need to put yourself under any pressure or set goals. It might take a while for you to get comfortable with the practice.
Let us know what you think and if you incorporate mindfulness into your self-care routine.