Mindfulness

Mindfulness- Tania Brocklehurst

We all lead increasingly busy lives in a society where we can access information about the world 24/7. Many of us sleep near our electronic devices, and people expect us to be more immediately responsive than ever thanks to advances in technology. Our minds are busy from the moment we wake, remembering, thinking or planning ahead.

Mindfulness is a buzzword in counselling and therapy at the moment and is taught and delivered in various forms. The eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) courses are popular and whilst both have gained momentum, the MBCT is now a treatment recommended by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). The course is a mixture of mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques and is clinically proven to be effective in the management of depression and anxiety.

Although helpful, it is not necessary to complete an eight week course in order to learn and benefit from mindfulness. There are an increasing amount of tools that can support mindfulness practise. A popular book and audio CD ‘Finding Peace in a Frantic World’ is currently at number 25 in the Amazon Bestseller charts and is one such example. This book takes the reader through mindfulness concepts, techniques and meditations in the comfort of their home.

In one audio mindfulness practise Mark Williams reassuring voice tells us “The deep stillness we seek does not arise because the world is still, or the mind is quiet, it comes when we allow things to be just as they are for now- in this moment”. In other words we cannot always control the environment or circumstances we are in, and if we waited for our minds to become still we might wait forever, but if we can learn to live in the moment, moment by moment, we can learn to slow down, and breathe.

The breath is the most important tool in mindfulness. It is the very source of life, and no matter how stressful things get, the breath is always there. You don’t need to remember to breath, you don’t need to do it in a different way, just notice it.

Finding a quiet space, perhaps while you are reading this article, when parked in your car, or first thing in the morning before your world gets busy – sit comfortably, with your feet firmly on the floor. Notice the ground beneath your feet, solid and safe. Feel your seat supporting you, and your spine straight and alert. Close your eyes if you can. Follow your next in breath as your tummy draws in, and notice your muscles relax as you breath out. Repeat. If you want to slow it down you might try breathing in for a count of 7 and breathing out to a count of 11. The idea is that you breathe out for longer than your in breath. Slowing yourself down. It is not possible for the mind to worry and concentrate on breathing at the same time. Breathing in, and breathing out. Nothing else to do in this moment. Nowhere else to go. Just you, and your breath. Well done! You have achieved mindful breathing. Even just 3 mindful breaths can be enough to bring you back into your body and live a more mindful existence.

A trending app, ‘Headspace’ is also a particularly popular tool at the moment. Free to download, it initially offers 10 free mindfulness meditations which are an achievable yet substantial 10 minutes long each. It can be an achievable and accessible introduction to practising daily.

By slowing down, by noticing our breath, being more aware of our bodies, and how we are  feeling, we become better resourced be fully present in our worlds. You can apply the technique to eating. How often do you eat a chocolate bar or even a whole meal without really paying attention? Instead of a quick sandwich at your computer, take the time to fully attend to your meal. Notice how the food looks, smells and feels. How does it taste? What do you notice as you take your first bite? Mindful eating can lead to healthier choices and bodies. You may also notice more in your environment. Colours can seem brighter, the sky bluer, we have more ‘headspace’ to be fully present when listening to other people and for really living the lives we want to live.

Mindfulness is not a quick fix, you do have to practise it, but the investment in time comes back threefold. After all we cannot change the past, and we cannot predict the future, in the context of bereavement we are all too aware that all we really have is the present, so it makes sense to learn how to and make sure we really live in it.

 

References:

Mindfulness: A Practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, Prof Mark Williams, Dr Danny Penman, 2011

http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg90/chapter/1-recommendations, December 2013

https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app

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