Mindfulness for Wellbeing
I practice mindfulness regularly both at home and in nature, I find it soothing and calming. Alongside this, it enables me to understand my emotions, my patterns of behaviour, my reactions, and the impact on my body. This has brought real changes to my life from improved boundaries to increased self-compassion.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, improve emotional awareness, promote a genuine sense of joy and increase a sense of calm to cope with life’s ups and downs.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of staying in the moment and developing a kind and non-judgemental awareness of ourselves and our surroundings. It helps us see clearly what is going on in our lives. It is not about trying to change the way things are but about accepting things as they are - the pleasant and the unpleasant - and being able to respond with greater freedom. It supports a re-connection between mind and body.
Mindfulness has been shown to be effective for people with anxiety, depression, and sleeping issues as well as a wide range of physical health conditions, including chronic back pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and multiple sclerosis. Clinical trials show mindfulness practice can be as effective as prescription painkillers and it also boosts the body’s natural soothing and healing systems. Mindfulness supported me through my grief when my husband passed away 2 years ago, I found sitting with the challenging feelings rather than repressing them enabled me to be present and accept the pain as part of life and the depth of my feelings for my husband.
It allows us to welcome whatever arises, rather than trying to suppress it, avoid it or become overwhelmed by it. In this way, there is less internal conflict – which can make things a little lighter. Each time we respond differently we are building new neuropathways, hopefully creating more positive ways of responding to life’s challenges and building our ability to engage fully with our emotions in times of stress. Difficult times happen for all of us, no one has a perfect life that will not be challenging at some point. It is therefore key that we learn techniques to respond to these challenges with grace and humanity.
Mindfulness isn’t about stopping our thoughts, but noticing them without judgment or getting lost in them. It supports us to see our thoughts as just thoughts that come and go like clouds across the sky, and we do not need to get caught within their story. Each time your mind wanders in meditation, your task is to notice it and then detach from your thought stream and come back to your breath, in the moment. This is a practice of untangling from thoughts over and over again, a habit which translates in the rest of your life too. It becomes a habit to notice and let go with ease.
The great quote from Jon Kabat-Zinn sums this up perfectly: “ You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf”
A simple mindfulness practice
Sit in a comfortable place, and begin paying attention to your breathing. Notice the physical sensation of air filling your lungs, and then slowly leaving.
When your mind wanders—which it will—simply notice your thoughts, and turn your attention back to breathing.
Some ideas to bring mindfulness into your day
Mindful eating- try to eat a meal slowly and intentionally. Notice the smell, the colours, textures of your food. As you taste each mouthful be fully present with the taste and sensations as the food moves down your body.
Mindful Walking- as you walk be fully present, notice how your feet touch the ground and your whole body moves. Be aware of your surroundings, sights, sounds, smells, use the sense of touch on plants and trees.
3 step breathing space- a short practice you can do anywhere, try to do this throughout the day to anchor yourself to your breath.
Daily activities- try to have a few points in the day when you stop and bring awareness to your body and thoughts- this could be as you brush your teeth, get dressed, or do the washing up- use regular, simple activities to build your practice.
Bring self-compassion into your practices, Kristen Neff has a range of simple activities.
Mindfulness may not be a short-term fix, but with continued practice, it could provide a long-term solution by giving us the power to respond to unpleasant emotions, distressing situations, and physical pain more reflectively.
I genuinely believe it has changed my life and enabled me to not just survive but thrive through challenging times. Why not try some practices yourself, I would love to know your thoughts.