What is Mindfulness?
People often ask me what Mindfulness is about, as it is a term that keeps popping up a lot recently, yet many people don’t really know what it means, and how it is helpful? So I thought I would give you a quick overview of what mindfulness is all about. I have also put together a brief mindfulness breathing exercise that you can try yourself if you like.
Mindfulness in a nut shell is about being present in the here and now, being aware of all your senses (what you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste) and what you are experiencing, rather than getting tangled up with your thoughts and being on autopilot.
Mindfulness is also about bringing your attention to the present with an attitude of openness and curiosity. Where you can step back and have more perspective and notice what you are experiencing without judgement. Mindfulness is also about being flexible and having the ability to shift your focus and be open and responsive to your experience, rather than being preoccupied by something and unable to shift.
Many of us regularly experience negative and unhelpful thoughts and feelings throughout the day that impacts our ability to be present. For example we may doubt ourselves, lack confidence, worry about failure or rejection, ruminate on past experiences or feel consumed with health issues and pain. This can leave us feeling quite overwhelmed and stuck in our own heads. Unfortunately when we are like this we miss out on a lot things that are happening around us.
Mindfulness is a great way of helping us to learn to get out of our heads and be more present. When we are present we have more perspective, can notice a lot more, experience more and have greater control over our choices and behaviour. When we are stuck in our own heads our behaviours are more likely to be emotionally reactive or avoidant. If you can notice all your senses and experience what is happening around you, then you are unlikely to still be stuck in your head and consumed with thoughts. The more you can live in the present, the easier it will be to make decisions and take actions towards living the life you want.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be done as a meditation, like the example I have included. It is often promoted that way, so people can get the wrong idea about what mindfulness is. You can be mindful doing anything, for example you can walk mindfully where you bring your attention to noticing how your body feels with each step, or noticing the sounds of birds, or the scent of flowers. You can mindfully wash the dishes, where you bring your attention to the temperature and how the water feels against your skin or noticing the colours and shapes of the soap bubbles.
Mindfulness is a skill and can be learned. And like any new skill it takes time and practice to get good at it. If you are new to mindfulness, don’t be hard on yourself if you find it difficult initially, you are not alone. Have a go at practicing a mindfulness activity each day and you will find it easier the more you do it.
I use mindfulness in my therapy sessions with clients and I regularly try and practice being more mindful myself, which has helped me in my life.
Below is a mindfulness breathing exercise for you to try.
Have a great day
Occupational Therapist, Be Inspired Group – specialising in adult mental health, persistent pain and chronic disease management. Practicing in Wynn Vale, South Australia. (Medicare rebates available if referred under a mental health or chronic disease management plan)