What is Mindfulness?
The word Mindfulness is talked about often in the media at the moment. I find it is banded around a lot as the latest craze with stars such as Ruby Wax and Russell Brand advocating meditation, people feel like they want a piece of the action.
But for me it is so much more than a craze. It’s a lifelong way to improve your mental health.
But what is mindfulness exactly and how can it apply to me?
Mindfulness is one of those things that sounds simple.
The Mindful Nation UK Report describes Mindfulness as
‘paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness’
Our modern brains are wired for a world of limited attention spans, of harsh judgement of ourselves and others and with a heavy dose of worry about what happened yesterday, last week, last year or 10 years ago or indeed, anxiety over what might happen in the future. This is cultivated through decades of bombardment of judgement from others such as friends, family or the media, to name a few. To change our mindset and enjoy life more fully takes a lot of practice.
In fact, in takes a lifetime of practice.
Yikes, I hear you say, sounds pretty arduous!
Mindfulness and learning to meditate isn’t necessarily easy or a quick fix. For some, it can bring immediate respite and a quietening of the mind. For others, stopping and paying attention means initially their minds are flooded with thoughts, worries or irritation that the meditation is not working!
But it is.
Experiencing irritation or frustration is part of the meditation process. I have been meditating for years and I still have meditations that are not particularly enjoyable. But I still do it. I do it because I’m teaching myself that running away from those feelings is not a good idea. Instead, I sit with those feelings, regardless of whether I like them or not.
What the meditation is teaching us is that we are separate from our thoughts. Often, we get so caught up in our emotions that, before we know it, we’re suddenly absorbed and stressed out.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you meditate and you start to worry, you bring yourself back to your breath.
You are teaching yourself self-control.
You’re also teaching yourself that you are not your thoughts…because you watch them coming and going and each time, you bring your attention back to your breath.
Thoughts ebb and flow and you don’t have to chase after them.
Instead, you can just watch them. This sounds simple but is extremely powerful.
If you’d like support in learning mindfulness meditation then click here to read about our courses.