"Has a way of giving your life back to yourself"
"Is a love affair with life, with reality and imagination, with the beauty of your own being, with your heart and body and mind, and with the world."
(Jon Kabot Zinn, Mindfulness for Beginners).
For me, Mindfulness is about stopping and restarting, a bit like the 'Restart your computer' command after you clean out all the junk on your computer, get rid of all the programs you don't want or need anymore and reboot a cleaner PC.
We live in such a hectic world. Sometimes we don't even have time to stop and think, stop and make choices, stop and really look at what's around us and what we're doing.
Be honest: when was the last time you actually sat and ate a meal without any interruptions tv off, no background noise, no rushing because something else needed to be done soon, just sat and ate the meal one mouthful at a time and tasted every mouthful.
Or did you eat the meal like every other: you knew what it was you were eating, but did you really taste it? Did you look at the different colours on the plate, notice the different shapes, feel the different textures in your mouth, smell as the aroma drifted upwards.
Mindfulness is living in the present moment, in this moment right here.
Did you know that most of our anxiety, depression and stress come from either worrying about the future, what is going to happen, or from thinking about the past.
Stress, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, feeling powerless, and so many other things, even eating disorders, can be rooted in what we think is going to happen in the future, what other people might think, what might happen, what people think about what has already happened.
And life just doesn't get any slower, the pressures don't stop, the deadlines, the negative people, our own bad feelings ... on and on and on it goes.
The reason Mindfulness is so effective in dealing with anxiety, stress and depression is because it takes our focus away from the future and focuses us back on the present moment
And the more we can do this, the more we will be able to manage anxiety, stress and depression, anger, low self esteem and a range of other problems.
Gateway Counselling Leicester can :
- Teach you personal, simple mindfulness skills which you can use every day
- Help you to understand where your stress and anxiety is coming from
- Provide a safe and professional place where you can talk in confidence
- Teach you useful, easy tools and therapy to help you grow and flourish
The Easiest Mindfulness Exercise Ever!
Take a few moments to just stop where you are (even if you're reading this excellent website :). Put both your feet comfortably on the floor. Move your shoulders around a bit, and then relax them. Get comfortable.
Now the easy bit, something you've actually been doing your whole life. Just breathe. Slowly, gently, comfortably ... Just breathe.
And now for the Mindfulness bit: notice your breathing. It's as simple as that. Notice your breathing. Breathe in (through your nose if you can). Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Close your eyes (after you've read this probably), relax and breathe.
After a while, when you feel comfortable and relaxed, open your eyes as if for the first time. Breathe. Notice what's around you. Imagine you're seeing it for the first time. Look at how beautiful things are. What do you notice. Stay in the moment.
That's it ... the easiest Mindfulness Exercise there is.
You can do it anywhere, at any time, in only a minute or two.
I do it at work (and so far no one else has noticed, or they're too polite to say).
I have a small garden, but I practice there also, and there is so much colour, so many noises we hardly notice.
It takes a few minutes to practice, but a lifetime to become truly mindful.
But I can promise you this:
If you keep at it (and please don't make relaxing hard work, that would be tragic), you will find yourself becoming calmer, looking at the world and its pressures with new eyes, enjoying parts of the day more, and then enjoying more and more parts of the day more and more.
The Practice of Mindfulness:
- Reduces stress levels by building in relaxation and stopping time
- Reduces anxiety and panic attacks by staying in the present moment
- Aids digestion and health by slowing down our eating
- Aids mental health by allowing us time to reflect, slow down, think
More Mindfulness Exercises:
- Start with the breathing exercise above. Always start with that.
- Breathe as naturally as possible and relax any muscles that you feel are tense. Gently count your in-breaths and out-breaths, focusing only on your breathing.
- If your mind drifts, don't worry about that or dwell on it, but when you notice your mind has drifted away from it, just gently bring your focus back to your breathing. Do not criticise yourself for drifting, it doesn't help.
- This is especially useful for insomnia or anxiety at night times. If you cant switch your mind off, try this counting exercise, and each time just bring your focus back to your breathing and count, in, out. (There's a very good chance you'll fall asleep before or around counting to ten, better than counting sheep every time).
- Start with the breathing exercise. Feel relaxed.
- Become aware of your body, eyes closed if it helps.
- Think about and be aware of each part of your body from the bottom to the top, each part in turn. Spend a short time on each part. What does it feel like. Is that part of your body touching anything? What does that feel like. Is that part relaxed or tense? Move if you want to.
- Now, go back to your breathing.
- Next, if you want to, I invite you to start at the top of your body, and slowly, as you move your awareness down over the parts of your body, tense the muscles as much as you can. Screw your eyes shut. Grit your teeth. Clench your fists, etc.
- What does that feel like? Hold it, but not for too long?
- Now, slowly, starting at the top again, bit by bit, relax each part, each muscle group. Move your head around. Move your shoulders. Slowly relax each part all the way down to your toes.
- Refocus, when your ready, back on your breathing. When your breathing is comfortable and you're happy with it, use the time to reflect on the exercise.
- This is a good exercise for managing stress, for becoming more aware of your own body, for becoming more aware of your own feelings.
- One more final one for now, a fun one that I learned on a Mindfulness Day from Jane Cross, who is also a therapist and values coach near Oakham.
- Begin with the breathing exercise, as usual
- Don't over think this exercise (there are alot of questions below), just take time to experience each part.
- Take a single chocolate or square of chocolate and just hold it. We often eat chocolate without even thinking about it; so just hold it. What does it feel like. Does it have any weight? Take your time.
- What does it look like? Is the chocolate shiny, dull, something else? Is it the same colour all over, or are there different shades?
- What does your mouth feel like? Dry? Are you salivating? What does that feel like? Can you taste it? Swallow.
- Smell the chocolate, just breathe in the aroma? Enjoy the smell? Does it remind you of anything? (smell is one of the biggest stimulants to memory of childhood).
- Now, the chocolate is probably beginning to melt in your hand. Take just a moment to see how that feels different to before, and then place the chocolate gently into your mouth.
- What does it feel like. Experience the chocolate just staying in your mouth. After a few moments, move it around in your mouth. Does the taste change in different parts of your mouth? Does it change as the chocolate starts to melt.
- Bite into it (especially rewarding if the centre is creamy or different). Feel the new tastes. Feel your teeth against the chocolate. What do you notice.
- Slowly eat the chocolate, swallowing as needed. Is the experience different from when you last ate chocolate? How? Did any childhood memories come to mind.
- Finish whenever you're ready.
I hope this gives you some insight and helpful tips into Mindfulness. I personally believe, although I'm only a beginner, that it is one of the most useful techniques I've learned over the past two years.
Use it to:
- Taste your food and slow down your eating (or drinking)
- Pause in your workday and breathe
- Get yourself to sleep
- Look at your garden, the colours, the smells, the contrasts
- Consider people's faces, what makes them unique
- Be quiet and see what images come to your mind
- Be compassionate and gentle with yourself
- If you're studying, use it to reflect on the page you've just read
- Look at what's around you if you're out walking
(Don't do it in the bath, when driving, standing on top of a tall pole or anywhere else where it may be dangerous to relax too much).
Please do persevere with it. The results are sometimes quick, sometimes not, but with practice it will slow your whole life down and give you space to think and experience things and take the world and its pressures at you're own pace.
And best of all ... you don't need to be good at it or know anything special to start. It is a journey.
Have fun with it.