What Is Mindfulness?
WHAT MINDFULNESS IS NOT:
- It is not religious.
- It is not magic.
- It is not therapy.
- We cannot clear our minds.
- It is not about escaping our lives.
WHAT MINDFULNESS IS:
- A learned skill to focus our attention on what is happening now.
- Recognising our thoughts, feelings and body sensations.
- Being able to recognise and understand our emotions and also in others.
Mindfulness is a skill anyone can learn and develop at any age. We all have the innate ability to be mindful, but we may simply have not been taught and encouraged to do so. Mindfulness skills and techniques enable us to focus our attention and notice exactly what is happening in this moment - right now! It involves focusing our attention on our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, body language and the environment around us. Noticing our habitual patterns of thinking and behaviour, thought processes and being able to understand and recognise our emotions. We tend to simply react to what is going on inside and around us, instead mindfulness helps us to respond to life's situations, relationships and experiences.
We have brains which have evolved to focus more on the negative, we experience 40-70 thousand thoughts a day and our bodies and minds communicate with each other constantly. We often do not notice or pay attention to the mind-body relationship unless we are experiencing a negative thought or feeling or discomfort of some sort. Mindfulness balances out the brains negative bias and helps us to sift through the constant barage of thoughts and thinking, being able to pay attention to the important information and not be so concerned with the rest.
Our thoughts are often concerned with dwelling on past experiences, anxious about the future or lost in thought daydreaming or fantasising.
Mindfulness helps us recognise when our minds have wandered off into unhelpful thinking and come back to being consciously aware of what is happening in any given moment. A working definition of the mind:
"the mind is simply where you place your attention"
We also notice this body of ours, by getting to know the many patterns of feelings, emotions and sensations allows us to become more emotionally flexible, less reactive, more caring and able to respond to pain and the bodies needs more effectively. The body is a natural anchor to help keep us aware of the present moment, we become more grounded and helps counteract the wandering, frantic or flighty minds of ours!
Mindfulness is taught combining three approaches: adopting a set of attitudes, techniques and practices. Some of the techniques and exercises are called meditations, which can be practised sitting, lying down, and/or walking (these are often referred to as formal meditation practices). We then also grow our mindfulness skills by bringing the attitudes and awareness of thoughts and feelings to our everyday life situations. Whether this is playing sport, having a conversation or baking a cake! The approaches weave into your life as it is right now and becomes a way of living.