When we’re busy or under a lot of pressure from different areas of our lives, it’s easy to spend our time rushing around and focusing on what’s coming next, rather than what currently is. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is a technique that can help you bring your full attention to what’s happening in the present moment – namely, what you’re thinking and feeling and what’s happening in your immediate environment. It aims to help you take control of your emotions and improve your focus.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of mindfulness, how it works, and how you can get started.
How does mindfulness work?
Mindfulness works by helping you to notice more about yourself and what’s going on around you (e.g. sights, smells, sounds) at any given moment. It can help to silence unhelpful and debilitating thoughts that may be stopping you from enjoying your daily life.
The thoughts that we have can have an impact on our behaviour, so if you can have calmer thoughts and feel more in control, then the chances are you’ will perform more positive actions and live a happier life.
There is plenty of scientific research out there to suggest that mindfulness can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health. In addition, many top-performing athletes and high powered career professionals are turning to mindfulness as a tool to improve their focus and enhance their performance.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
In general, practising mindfulness is thought to help us understand ourselves better, enjoy our lives more, and improve our day-to-day wellbeing.
It does this by helping us to combat stress, be kinder to ourselves, become more self-aware, and feel better able to choose how to respond to our thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness can also encourage us to…
Notice the little things
Paying attention to the smaller things in life can have a positive impact on the way we think because it can wake us up to a lot of sensations that can be really pleasing, but that we often ignore.
For example, if you usually eat your lunch whilst working on your computer or watching TV, then perhaps you aren’t really paying much attention to the taste of what you’re eating. To be more mindful in this instance, you could try switching off your electronic devices and focus on tasting each and every mouthful of your lunch – and chances are, you’ll enjoy it so much more!
Try new things
It’s easy to get stuck in ‘autopilot’ mode; doing the same routine every day without a second thought. And while there’s nothing wrong with this, it makes it a lot easier for us to rush through life with our eyes closed.
To shake things up a bit, why not try taking a different route to the supermarket or sitting somewhere different when you’re out in the garden? Changing up your habits can help you to see the world through fresh eyes and notice new things about your surroundings. This will also help bring your mind back to the present moment.
Put some distance between ourselves and our thoughts
If you’re someone who regularly struggles to sleep or to truly embrace the moment because you’re thinking about a cocktail of different things, then putting some space between yourself and your thoughts may bring you some peace.
When you first start practising mindfulness, it’s normal to become overwhelmed by all the thoughts that come rushing in – but try not to let this put you off. Instead, try exploring different ways to distance yourself from your thoughts. For example, you could imagine your thoughts as cars driving past you, but not stopping.
By acknowledging your thoughts and how you’re feeling, without judging why you feel this way, you can allow your mind to move on without losing your awareness of the present. Some people also find it helpful to label their thoughts as they watch them drive by. For instance: ‘that’s my anxious thought about finding a new job’ or ‘that’s my anxious thought about all the things I have to get done by tomorrow.’
Let go of the past and stop worrying about the future
The reason that many of us have issues with staying in the present moment is because we’re too busy thinking about the past and/or worrying about the future.
Mindfulness can help us to reconnect with our bodies and the present moment which prevents us from becoming too wrapped up in our thoughts. Once we do this, we can often see how these thoughts may be driving our emotions and our behaviours.
When should I practise mindfulness?
You can practise mindfulness at any moment you wish. However, when starting out, many people find it easier to build it into their routine by committing to regular times (e.g. first thing in the morning or last thing before bed).
As you become more familiar with mindfulness and how it works, you should be able to use it more readily.
Is mindfulness for everyone?
Mindfulness isn’t a magic solution to all your problems, but it can be a useful tool for coping with the stresses and strains of daily life. And as with anything, the more you practise it, the better at it you’ll be.
How do I get started with mindfulness?
You can practise being in the present moment on your own, whenever is convenient for you. It usually helps to start by focusing on small things. For example, shutting your eyes for 10 minutes and focusing only on your breathing, or thinking about how the sun feels on your skin as you walk to work.
As you become more comfortable with mindfulness, you can begin to do it as and when you need to (e.g. when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed).
For those new to mindfulness, joining a local class can be a good way to learn the skills needed to get started. Or, for those who’d prefer to do it in the comfort of their own home, you can read more about mindfulness on the NHS website.
There are also a wide range of paid-for and free services out there that you can download on your mobile phone. Two of the most popular are Calm and Headspace. These both offer free trials, so you can see if you like them before you commit to a monthly subscription.
Another option is to try an online course – we have a selection on site, which you can browse by clicking here.
Whether it’s helping you to stay focused, enjoy activities more, or combat stress and anxiety, there are a whole host of benfits to practising mindfulness.
If you’d like to find out more about how to maintain your mental health, then why not head over to the healthy mind section of our website? Here, you’ll find plenty of content on mindfulness and positivity, advice on overcoming challenges, and more.
Do you have any experience practising mindfulness? Are you a passionate advocate? We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation over on the Rest Less community forum or leave a comment below.