That sounds great in theory but if, like me, your thoughts run wild and you have a million things going on in your head at any one time, it surely would be a bit of a challenge. Well….it is… to start with, but the good news is, the more you practice it, the easier it gets.
Additionally, mindfulness is linked with a range of benefits to our overall wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation states on its website that ‘research suggests that when we intentionally practise being mindful, we feel less stressed, anxious and depressed, and more balanced and in tune with what is happening inside and outside of our bodies. The resulting calm and clarity boosts wellbeing, broadens perspective and provides an important foundation for learning’.
What I really like about mindfulness is that it is a great way just to notice things – things that I wouldn’t normally notice because my mind was focusing on other things like what I was going to cook for dinner or what I needed to do at work the next day. In other words, my mind was busy thinking about the past or the future instead of being in the ‘now’. There are many wonderful moments in the present such as noticing how tense I am feeling and that I need to stretch or take some breaths, how delicious lunch looks and how I am looking forward to eating it, or how beautiful the morning light or bird song is. Being mindful means noticing sights, sounds, smells, physical sensations – anything that you might not take any notice of usually…. even your breathing!
‘Our minds wander about 50 percent of the time, but every time we practise being mindful, we are exercising our attention ‘muscle’ and becoming mentally fitter. We can take more control over our focus of attention, and choose what we focus on…rather than passively allowing our attention to be dominated by that which distresses us and takes us away from the present moment.’
By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we do not have to go into the same old ‘mental ruts’ that may have caused problems in the past.’
There are some simple things you can do every day to ‘get out of your head’. Try ‘mindfully’ preparing dinner. Really notice the texture of the vegetables, the noise as you chop them up, the sound of something sizzling and the delicious smells.
Go for a ‘mindful’ walk. Exercise is good for you anyway but walking mindfully means noticing things around you that you might not normally notice – the flowers, the trees, people’s gardens and dogs barking. Notice the movement of your own body as you take each step and your breathing.
They are simple things but they do help to clear your head, particularly if you have had a stressful day.
I asked one of our counsellors about mindfulness and whether they use it or recommend it to the people they work with who are struggling with a gambling problem.
“I use mindfulness exercises with clients and they often report back that it was the most helpful part of the session.”
There are loads of resources out there if you want to practice guided mindfulness. You can take a look at the references I’ve got below. For me, I use an app called Headspace. I use it because they’ve put a lot of thought and research into it and it’s right there on my phone. You can even buddy up with friends to keep each other on track. The app costs but you can do the free ‘take ten’ programme to give it a go. And if time is an issue, try and schedule ten minutes out of your day to do your guided mindfulness practice. I find the morning is best as I fall asleep at night!
It just might help you to focus, reduce unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and to start noticing the now in your life :-)
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Mental Health Foundation - Mindfulness