Simon Jones, Head of Policy and Influencing at Mind Cymru, tells us all about mindfulness and tips for becoming more mindful in everyday life.
Mindfulness has become a popular way to help people manage their day to day wellbeing, with many apps and books available to teach you the techniques. It’s a technique you can learn which involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment (in your mind, body and surroundings) – without judging anything. It has roots in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.
It aims to help you:
- Become more self-aware
- Feel calmer and less stressed
- Feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings
- Cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts
- Be kinder towards yourself
The way we think (and what we think about) can affect how we feel and act. For example, if you think or worry a lot about upsetting past or future events, you might often feel sad or anxious. The theory behind mindfulness is that by using various techniques to bring your attention to the present (usually focusing on your body and breathing), you can:
- Notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. You may learn that they don’t have to define who you are, or your experience of the world, and you can let go of them.
- Notice what your body is telling you. For example, tension or anxiety can often be felt in your body (such as in a fast heartbeat, tense muscles or shallow breathing).
- Create space between you and your thoughts, so you can react more calmly.
Mindfulness helps people observe the way they think and feel about their experiences, whether good or bad. Mindfulness can help by increasing your awareness of your thoughts and feelings, managing unhelpful thoughts, and by developing more helpful responses to difficult feelings and events.
Some people find it can help to manage their depression, anxiety and stress. In particular it can help if you:
- Struggle with negative thoughts and feelings that you would like to have more control over
- Find it hard to switch off and relax
- Worry a lot about events you cannot control
- Need a way to reduce stress
If you find it difficult to get any free time, then mindfulness or relaxation techniques can help you give yourself the break you need.
Many people assume mindfulness and meditation are the same thing — but are there other strategies for being more mindful, outside of meditating:
- Mindful eating, which involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat.
- Mindful moving, walking or running. Notice the feeling of your body moving. You might notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet or hands against different textures on the ground or nearby surfaces, and the different smells that are around you.
- Mindful colouring and drawing. Focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil against the paper, rather than trying to draw something in particular. You could use a mindfulness colouring book or download mindfulness colouring images.
Eve Price, a current Seren student, says that wellbeing is a key priority for her and because of this has a set self-care routine: “I believe it’s very important to set a time in the evening when I stop doing work, to give myself the chance to switch off, followed by a set bed time to make sure that I get enough sleep. In order to reduce stress, I find it really useful to write to-do lists and plan the following day the night before. This includes how I’m going to use my free lessons and what work I’ll be doing the next evening.”
To find out more about mindfulness, visit: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/#.XD8Aelz7SUk