What are the Benefits of Mindfulness and who can it help?
Mindfulness is a focusing technique where you connect your mind deliberately to your body, which you can do in many different ways.
It is basically focusing your attention on something physical such as your breath, sense of hearing, touch or sight, or your internal physical feelings. You bring your mind purely to the sensation you are experiencing and bring yourself to the present moment.
It has its basis in ancient Eastern religions including Buddhism and Hinduism, but in its current form is really designed for use in a modern world.
Mindfulness is easy and can be done anywhere
Start by focussing your attention on a physical sensation, such as your breath, the feeling in your fingertips, or a sound that you can hear. Bringing yourself entirely into the physical sensation means being entirely in the present moment.
Bringing yourself into the present, physical moment takes you out of your thoughts and feelings, at least long enough to give yourself a break and a chance to step out of your stress or mood. In the present moment, you are no longer regretting anything that happened in the past or worrying about anything that can happen in the future.
That tiny break, even for a moment, can be enough to gather yourself and get back to whatever was facing you with renewed energy and attention. This is the lovely way that little practical exercises can make a real difference in your busy life.
An easy way to do this is to try and observe and describe in detail the sensation, using as many descriptive words as you can come up with. Your mind will naturally wander back to your thoughts, but you just gently notice that it has wandered and then bring it back to observing and describing the physical sensation again.
Think of it like doing butt clenches or pelvic floor lifts, but to exercise your mind. It only takes a few seconds, you can do it anywhere and no one even needs to know that you are doing it.
This is the beginning of mindfulness, which anyone can start to practice.
Disconnect yourself from your thoughts
Once you get a bit more skilled you work on the next stage, which is using this focus to separate yourself from your automatic thoughts and emotions and learning not to judge yourself for things that are out of your control.
You become like a curious scientist observing the weird and wonderful things your mind does without judgement. You start to recognise the silly, repeated thoughts that pop up no matter what and learn to forgive yourself that they are there because no one can control them.
What you can control is whether you let these thoughts affect how you feel and how you act. This becomes easy as your confidence with mindfulness grows.
A great way to think about these automatic thoughts is to consider them like annoying pop-up advertisements. You can’t stop them from appearing, but you don’t have to believe their rubbish or buy their product.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Don’t be put off by the idea that mindfulness is just a fad craze or even just a hippie term used by people who have time to sit around and meditate in fields all day. Mindfulness is connected to meditation, but it is also one of the most practical ways you can bring focus and calm into a busy modern life. You can be mindful in many ways without meditating.
Handy, easy and simple to slot in everywhere and anywhere, many people are discovering the benefits of a little mindfulness.
The benefits of mindfulness include:
- reducing stress
- making it easier to wind down and relax as well as to get to sleep
- allowing you to calm down in a difficult moment and teaching you strategies to deal with difficult situations or people
- facing fears and phobias
- helping you to stop focussing on regrets from the past or worries about the future
- increasing the body’s immune system resilience
- managing chronic illness
- reducing the severity and side effects of pain and stress like headache, neckache, and backache
- managing emotions like anger and frustration
- improving self-esteem and self-confidence
- increasing our enjoyment of any task, including the ones we usually don’t like
- it can increase the benefits of exercise and make it easier to watch what we eat
- it can help us to deal with cravings and ride through emotional urges
- helping you to form deeper relationships with others, as well as break out of toxic relationships
- helping you deal with grief or past traumatic experiences
- treating heart disease, lower blood pressure, and alleviating gastrointestinal difficulties
- providing help with mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, eating and addictive disorders, PTSD and OCD.
Who can Mindfulness Help?
Mindfulness can help almost everyone. It is a wonderful technique to use on its own but is also a fantastic partner to other types of health treatment or psychotherapy. Many psychological treatments implement some aspects of mindfulness into their sessions and their coping strategies.
Mindfulness practice is creeping into many aspects of modern life and can help people in group therapy, professional sportspeople, office workers, students, hospital inpatients, couples, and families. It is even something that little children can pick up and is used in some preschools and childcare centres.
Small, simple mindfulness techniques can be thrown anywhere into your day, no matter what you are doing. You can drive mindfully, eat mindfully, even do the dishes mindfully.
People benefit from implementing longer formal mindfulness sessions into their day, where they sit in a quiet space and focus entirely on the mind, similar to meditation. But the beauty of it is that you can also do it informally anytime and for only a moment if you need.
It can help people with serious emotional, mental or physical health conditions, but it can also help pretty much anyone. We get so used to functioning on autopilot or trying to multitask a bunch of things at once that we often go through processes unaware of what we are doing.
Trying to do too much at once increases our stress levels and means we miss out on the beauty of the little things, such as being with loved ones. We can participate much more actively in our own lives and reduce how much we worry about all the irrelevant things.
Who can mindfulness help? Everyone! Anyone who is open-minded enough to try and accept themselves without judgement.
For more information feel free to get in touch with The Mindful Hub.