Mindfulness. It has become something of a buzz-word in the mental health world lately. People, sufferers and not, are jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon – which is testament to just how well it works.
In summary, mindfulness is the non-judgemental acceptance of your current situation. It means that you are fully present in the moment; not fretting about the future or past. Acceptance of the present is a powerful tool in overcoming anxiety especially. So much of anxiety comes from rumination (a contemplation of thoughts where they are allowed to run wild and are obsessed over). Mindfulness means that you can observe your thoughts without becoming emotionally entangled in them.
To practice mindfulness means becoming aware of the world around you in the moment; and becoming aware of your own internal world too. It means paying attention to the detail – how green the grass is, how warm the breeze is, the sound of the birds singing (using an idyllic summer’s scene here – it could equally be the sound of the storm lashing your window panes and the texture of the blanket you are laying under). Turning the practice inwards, perhaps it is about noting (but not judging) the million anxious thoughts going through your head; the trick is learning to observe without getting involved. It can be a highly eye-opening experience to see the patterns of your thoughts.
There are plenty of exercises linked into mindfulness. Some are traditionally meditative and involve soothing music and listening to a pre-recorded track – there are lots of videos on YouTube that you can try out. Others are more interested in observing the world you are present in in detail. A favourite of mine is to do ‘mindful dishes’; an activity that normally sees my mind wandering becomes an exercise in focus. I learned to notice all the little elements of the mundane that normally pass me by – from the temperature of the water, to the smell of the soap and right down to the detail of the bubbles gently tickling as they burst on my skin.
Mindfulness does take practice, but it is well worth it. Meditative mindfulness means that we can learn to see when our thoughts are taking over and takes away their control over our minds. The activity based mindfulness can be a break from roller-coaster emotions and anxieties; learning to find peace in the every day things is like a time-out for the mind. It can reduce stress and improve mood.
Setting aside time for mindfulness is of benefit too. Scheduling ten minutes in the morning can set you up for the day. Ten minutes in the evening can be a chance to unwind and relax before settling for bed. Taking a mindful walk at lunch time is a nice break from the stress of work. Whatever you decide works for you really.
Give mindfulness a try; you won’t regret it.