Mindfulness is the learned skill of being present in the moment. It helps people to manage their thoughts, feelings and mental health. By paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – you can improve your mental wellbeing.
In our very busy modern lives it can be too easy to feel like our head is bursting with thoughts, worries and to-do lists, we can become bogged down in our constant intrusive thoughts about what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future whilst feeling overwhelmed in the present. “Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience,” says Professor Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre “and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful’.
Mindfulness is an integrative, mind body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts, to regulate their feelings and to support positive mental health. A growing body of evidence has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, with the UK Government’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending MBCT for the treatment of recurrent depression. Research also shows positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others.
Mindfulness is now being recognised as a tool to support emotional resilience and is becoming widely used in a range of contexts such as schools, colleges and universities, the NHS, the criminal justice system and the workplace.
By becoming more aware of the present moment we can help ourselves enjoy the world around us and understand ourselves better.
“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs” says Professor Mark Williams
How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing
Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go of, by using Mindfulness techniques we can learn to deal with them more productively. We can ask ourselves, is trying to problem solve our issues worthwhile or are we getting caught up in a constant cycle of going over and over the same issue. Being able to ‘step outside’ of these thoughts, to be aware of ourselves, needs ‘headspace’ or emotional resilience and this is where Mindfulness practice comes in. Awareness of this kind helps us to notice the signs of anxiety and depression and helps us to manage them better. By developing the skill of Mindfulness, and allowing as little as 5minutes a day to its practice, we can learn to do things differently and to de-arouse ourselves. It has been proven that the grey matter in our brains increases when we have regular periods of Mindfulness, it can help with sleep issues, concentration, lowers blood pressure and stimulates neural activity.
Mindfulness can take many forms for some people it may be taking time out to go for a walk, for others it may be meditation. Reminding yourself to take time out for yourself is the most important part, by doing this we give ourselves ‘privacy’ or quiet time to think and to notice the thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around us. Please look at our relaxation page to learn how to do 7/11 breathing.
Start by undertaking 5minute relaxations or ‘body scans’ by breathing deeply and focusing our attention on ourselves, our breathing and different parts of our body, we are learning to be fully present in the moment. Learn to bring your attention back to yourself and push away intrusions. By choosing a specific time to do this it can become part of your daily routine. You could choose to do it at bedtime or whilst listening to music or part of your preparation for your night time sleep.
Moving on you may start to notice things in your daily life, the food you eat, the air around you, the textures of your clothes, how your body feels as you walk, what you can see, hear, taste, touch and smell, fully immerse yourself in your senses, enjoy the moment, fully present.
Some people find it hard to stop what they are doing as the thoughts pierce the stillness of their constant busy brain and it may mean that they need to be doing something to get that feeling of peace and calm. By taking part in an activity such as fishing, yoga, Thai chi, cycling, walking, running, listening or taking part in music, or crafting we can introduce activities which allow us to relax and be fully present in the moment.
There are also many apps on the market that offer guided relaxations such as Headspace, Calm, Anxiety UK and AppZaps.
Please remember any new skill takes time to develop, don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t fall into place straight away, give yourself time, try different methods to develop stillness, relaxation and to quiet your busy mind. For more support contact one of the Therapy Needs Met team of therapists in your area.