Just a few years ago, only a few people in the medical and psychology professions knew anything in depth about mindfulness. Nowadays it’s possible to find a wealth of information online. This is fantastic news as it means that more and more people will benefit from it. Mindfulness is not a fad but a way of being that has been working for thousands of years. It has also been proven through thousands of studies to have real therapeutic application. The problem, as with anything that becomes more mainstream, is how to know which information has real scientific validity and which is information that has been adapted according to personal practice and creativity on the part of publishers.
In reality, the concept of mindfulness is very simple, to pay attention fully to that which arises in your experience. In essence, ‘notice X’. In practice it can be very challenging. Today’s society is designed to be anti mindful in many ways. Time becomes an issue as we are flooded with more and more things we ‘should’ do. We are bombarded with multi- channel media that is designed to be consumed in seconds. We respond instantly like trained dogs to any notification that pops us on our phones. So how can we switch from automatic pilot to choosing a bit more how we want to spend our moments, our days and ultimately, our lives? To step out of our busy minds and back to the present moment bringing less stress and more calm?
The following five tips have been developed from tried and tested mindfulness techniques. They can be practiced by anyone, any time and in any place.
1) Take a couple of minutes to notice your breathing. Sense the flow of the breath, the rise and fall of your belly. Follow it with your attention as fully as you can. When your mind wanders off, just gently bring it back and start again.
2) Notice what you are doing as you are doing it and tune into your senses. When you are eating, notice the colour, texture and taste of the food.
3) Don’t feel that you need to fill up all your time with doing. Take some time to simply be. When your mind wanders to thinking, gently bring it back to your breath or the physical contact of your feet on the floor. Your to do list will never by fully finished anyway!
4) Recognise that thoughts are simply thoughts; you don’t need to believe them or react to them.
5) Notice where you tend to zone out (e.g., driving, emailing or texting, surfing the web, feeding the dog, doing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.). Practice bringing more awareness to that activity. For example with brushing your teeth, notice the taste, sensations on the gums, temperature, any smells.