What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment, aware of where you are, what you’re doing and what you're thinking instead of being reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
Mindfulness exercises can help you create space in your mind to find peace, space to think clearly, space to breathe deeply, space to focus on what matters to you right now and space to be fully in every situation and experience.
Why would I try mindfulness?
For many people, practicing mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and bring calm, it can bring fresh perspectives and clarity to situations which have been challenging, it can help you find positivity in the every day.
Mindfulness can be useful if you live with anxiety, both to help yourself be still every day and to find calm when you're feeling extremely anxious.
How do you practice mindfulness?
The most important thing you need to become more mindful is time; time to practice mindfulness exercises and time in each situation to stop and be mindful. That doesn't mean hours of time, it can be just a few minutes.
I started with just five minutes each morning, now I spend half an hour morning and evening, as well as taking time to be mindful in the day as I need it.
This is the process I use.
Find a comfortable place where you won't be distracted for five minutes. Settle into that space, hopefully you'll feel quite relaxed but that's not essential.
Focus on your breathing. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
The aim of mindfulness is to observe what's happening right now, not a few minutes ago, not in a few minutes the, but right now.
What can you hear?
What can you see?
What can you feel?
What are you thinking?
Notice anything which is uncomfortable, physically or emotionally.
Don't worry about it, just notice it and let it pass by in your mind.
You may notice pleasant thoughts or feelings as well, again let them just pass through your mind and keep noticing.
If you keep coming back to a worry or physical pain then keep letting that pass by; you might benefit from noticing something positive - perhaps bird song or a positive thought to help the negative pass by you.
Keep coming back to observing how you feel right now. Don't worry if your mind keeps bringing up thoughts, just notice it and then bring yourself back to observing the moment.
It takes time to learn how to just focus on the here and now. It took me months before I really noticed that I was still and calm and peaceful.
How did it feel to be mindful?
Was it hard?
Were there any specific thoughts or feelings you noticed?
Do you feel different?
How do you use mindfulness?
I use mindfulness as part of my every day prayer life:
- noticing how I'm feeling and handing that to God
- reflecting on emotions and asking God to help me
- observing the world right now and thanking God for being with me
I use mindfulness when I'm in nature, observing the wonder of nature and noticing how I am connected to it. In lockdown I have realised that this can be as simple as sitting in my wheelchair in the garden with my feet on the grass.
I use mindfulness when I'm feeling anxious to notice the reality of the right now and calm myself. With a lot of practice I have learned to use it when I'm in the mid of a panic attack.