What is Mindfulness?

Have you ever wondered why you have inspirational moments in the shower? Why you can sometimes have some fantastic ideas when you least expect to? This is because you are inadvertently practising mindfulness.  During a shower, we tend to focus on the how the water feels against the skin; the temperature of the water; and the relaxation associated with that present moment – that’s basically mindfulness!

Mindfulness is a term coined by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn and is a mental process by which one is able to practice awareness of the present moment in a non-judgemental fashion.  Like most Western philosophies, Mindfulness also has its roots in Eastern traditions and beliefs.  The Eightfold Path, which Buddhists believe leads to enlightenment, incorporates mindfulness: to be aware of the body, thoughts and feelings and has been practised for thousands of years.  Jon Kabat-Zinn revamped this Buddhist philosophy and presented a modern, de-religionised version  to the Western world and quite rightly so.  I think this was very much needed with the pressures we face in this digital, fast-paced age.

Cultivating Mindfulness allows one to focus fully on what is happening in the present moment.  A greater awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviours is developed.  It’s about being the observer of your mind in a non-judgemental fashion – just observing as thoughts float by in the mind…

During states of stress and anxiousness, the focus tends to be on unreal future scenarios created by the mind relating to fear, what ifs and worry.  And then there’s focusing on the past, where the mind can be entangled in thoughts of regret, anger, guilt and resentment.  Whether those are towards oneself or others, these established mindsets cause much harm mentally, emotionally and transcend to the physical body too.  Being aware of these thoughts, feelings and behaviours through observing them, leads to acceptance – which is extremely important and then change can occur where more healthy patterns of thought can be adopted.

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Practising mindfulness is like retraining the brain to become more aware of the present moment rather than the negativity of the past or future. Within the present moment, everything is ok and when you reflect upon this, you realise that the present moment is all there is.  What is important is for this to be performed in non-judgemental manner. It’s about being compassionate towards yourself.

Establishing a mindful meditation is one of the ways to develop a mindful mindset. Through a mindful meditation, you are able to direct your thoughts to the present moment by focusing on the breath and all the sensations related to this.  This can be extended further by doing a body scan meditation, where the focus is on the sensations of each part of the body – allowing the mind to be fully present.  There is so much science that supports the notion of mindfulness and how the application of this for as little as ten minute a day can yield numerous cognitive benefits – the brain literally rewires itself.

As well as meditation, attaining a state of mindfulness can also be achieved through practising gratitude and kindness, a mindful walk, mindful eating or something as simple as sipping a cup of tea mindfully.   I began my journey into mindfulness many years ago and the benefits for me were vast in a very short space of time.  I was able to calm my overthinking mind; feel mentally relaxed; more productive and had become emotionally resilient. I was even able to remain to remain in state of remission with Crohn’s for much longer than previously.

This very simplistic practice can be extremely beneficial if practised regularly. Take this step for your wellbeing and begin to live life mindfully.

Download the 7 day Wellbeing Challenge to learn simple mindful techniques that will calm the overthinking anxious mind and improve your mental wellbeing.

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