It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much.
Focussing for a moment on your own thoughts and feelings, and on the world around you, can improve your mental wellbeing.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS MENTAL WELLBEING
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.
Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression in the past. Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
The morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime could be an opportunity in which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.
WATCH YOUR THOUGHTS
“Some people find it very difficult to practice mindfulness. As soon as they stop what they’re doing, lots of thoughts and worries crowd in,” says Professor Williams.
“It might be useful to remember that mindfulness isn’t about making these thoughts go away, but rather about seeing them as mental events.
“Imagine standing at a bus station and seeing ‘thought buses’ coming and going without having to get on them and be taken away. This can be very hard at first, but with gentle persistence it is possible.
“Some people find that it is easier to cope with an over-busy mind if they are doing gentle yoga or walking.”
NAME THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
To develop an awareness of thoughts and feelings, some people find it helpful to silently name them: “Here’s the thought that I might fail that exam”. Or, “This is anxiety”.
FREE YOURSELF FROM THE PAST AND FUTURE
You can practise mindfulness anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been “trapped” in reliving past problems or “pre-living” future worries.