What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your body, mind and feelings in the present moment and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

When a person is mindful, they:

1) Focus on the present moment

2) Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future.

3) Purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them

4) Try not to be judgemental about anything they notice.

Health Benefits of Mindfulness for Body and Brain

Mindful living will help you to become the very best person that you can be.  Practicing mindfulness can bring improvements in both physical and psychological symptoms as well as positive changes in health attitudes and behaviours.

Mindfulness can:

1) Improve physical health

2) Help relieve stress

3) Improve sleep

4) Alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties

5) Improve mental health

Other studies of mindfulness show that:

1) Mindfulness improves mood and quality of life in chronic pain conditions such as lower-back pain and in chronic functional disorders such as IBS.

2) Mindfulness improves working memory, creativity, attention span and reaction speeds. It also helps with resilience.

3) Mindfulness is at least as good as drugs or counselling for the treatment of clinical-level depression. One structured programme known as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is now one of the preferred treatments recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

4) Mindfulness reduces addictive and self-destructive behaviour. These include the abuse of illegal and prescription drugs and excessive alcohol intake.

5) Meditation and mindfulness improve control of blood sugar in type II diabetes.

6) Meditation improves heart and circulatory health by reducing blood pressure and lowering the risk of hypertension.  Mindfulness reduces the risks of developing and dying from cardiovascular disease and lowers its severity should it arise.

6 tips on how to be more mindful

Thoughts can easily take over your mind and affect your life. The idea of using mindfulness in everyday life is to become the master of your own mind as opposed to it being the master of you. Living mindfully will change all areas of your life for the better, but being mindful is not always easy.

1) As we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. This has the power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life.

2) Set aside some time each day to practice mindfulness and observe the present moment as it is.

3) Try something new such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can help you notice the world in a new way.

4) Watch your thoughts. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The aim is to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.

5) Our minds often get carried away in thought – reliving past problems or worrying about future events. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment. Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking.

6) Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

What is Mindlessness?

Mindlessness is acting without thought, being on autopilot or drifting from one situation to another without having any depth of mind or awareness of self.

Symptoms of Mindless Living:

1) Over-eating

2) Losing control of your eating habits

3) Anxiety

4) Depression

5) A feeling of lack of control

6) Anger

7) Sadness

8) Feeling isolated

9) Feeling you are missing out on something better

10) Wanting more or believing that the “grass is greener” elsewhere

11) Relying on drugs or prescription medication to get through the day

12) A reliance on alcohol

13) An inability to relax and enjoy the moment

14) Worry

15) Complaining

16) Irritation with yourself and others

17) Feeling rushed and unable to concentrate

If you believe that your daily habits and conduct are closer to mindlessness than mindfulness, then do not despair. Most people are running through life not paying much attention to anything other than the next thing they need to do.  Mindlessness has become normal in our society, but it is possible to learn how to be mindful. Like anything truly valuable, it takes time and effort to become skilled at being mindful.