What is mindfulness?

September 12, 2017

If you’ve been paying attention recently, you’re likely to know about mindfulness.

It’s the art of taking notice of what is currently happening around you and within you. It may be a thought, a feeling, a physical sensation, another person or things. It’s all about fully experiencing the present moment, rather than planning for tomorrow or thinking about yesterday.

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” Jon Kabat-Zinn.

While mindfulness has been around for a long time, its value is being rediscovered in our increasingly busy lives.

Fit For Work Occupational Therapist Lois Hill says practising mindfulness for a simple ten minutes each day has huge benefits.

“Reduced stress and anxiety, the resilience to cope with difficult life events, better sleep patterns and improved concentration are just some of the ways mindfulness can make a positive difference to our health and wellbeing,” Lois says.

So now that we know the benefits, how can we be mindful?

Mindful Breathing

This is one of the easiest exercises to get you started. It can be done anywhere at anytime, sitting or standing. All you have to do is focus on your breath…

Take a few slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then allow your breath to fall into its natural rhythm and just notice the sensations associated with this.

Maintain your attention on your breath; counting each cycle of inhale and exhale.

When thoughts pop into your head (as they inevitably will), notice what distracted you and then gently bring your attention back to your breath.

Instead of judging yourself for being distracted, congratulate yourself in having noticed this – each time you bring your attention back to the present, you are strengthening your ‘attention muscle’.

Mindful Listening

Another simple exercise that can be done anywhere at anytime is mindful listening. It can help calm the mind and improve your connection to your senses and your surroundings.

Stop and notice the sounds around you. Maybe you can hear the sound of your computer, cars going past, a person in the next room, or the sound of your own breathing.  

As time passes, you may notice quieter and more distant sounds, and the subtle layers within each sound.

Don’t judge or analyse the sounds; just listen and experience them; enjoying your connection to the here and now.

Traffic Lights Meditation

Taken from ‘Teach Yourself To Meditate’ by Eric Harrison.

This exercise works best if you are late, in a hurry – and the traffic lights turn red just as you approach.

If you feel frustrated, smile at yourself… You have been given perhaps a whole minute to stop and do nothing.

Let your body and mind slow down and relax. Take a deep sigh, lingering on the out-breath. Let your whole body and face soften… One whole minute to breathe softly.

Be aware of excess tension in your body. Gently shake it free, as you settle back into the seat.

The exercise finishes as the light turns green. Now devote all your attention to the task at hand – driving safely and well. And look forward to the next red light.

For more information, see the following links:

https://www.ted.com/talks/andy_puddicombe_all_it_takes_is_10_mindful_minutes (TED Talk).

https://www.headspace.com/ (free app – 10 days of mindfulness sessions)

‘Teach Yourself To Meditate’ by Eric Harrison (book)

Filed under Workplace Wellness

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