So what is Mindfulness?
I am so pleased we have now delivered the .b mindfulness ten week course to Years 7, 9 and 11 last term. We will continue to ‘drop in’ and reiterate these practices in the next two terms.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is, “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” In short, it is about being in the present moment. Often we behave mindlessly. Just think about a time when you ate a bag of crisps while watching TV or munched through a packet of chocolates at the cinema (my own secret mindless habit). Before you knew it, you’ve consumed the whole treat and all of the calories that came with them.
Our mind is a wandering mind! We spend most of our waking hours bemoaning the past or freaking out about our future. We spend very little time in the present. And this wouldn’t really warrant concern except for the fact that spending time in the present -being mindful- has its benefits. Among its many benefits, mindfulness can help relieve stress, treat heart disease, improve sleep, and reduce or alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. The evidence is incontrovertible.
Mindfulness cultivates wisdom, generosity, patience, effort and morality. People who practise mindfulness show a better ability to quit smoking, decrease binge eating, and reduce alcohol and illicit drug use. And mindfulness is kind to our brain, positively influencing areas of our brain involved in regulating emotion, awareness and attention. It is not surprising that educators, social workers and mental health professionals are beginning to see the benefit of practising mindfulness and implementing this practice in their work with clients and staff.
So what are a few simple ways to step into the present? There are a number of ways that we can practise mindfulness on a regular basis. These five suggestions below are just a few practices that I really enjoy.
- Focus on the breath: Basic relaxation breathing is something we can all find time to do and it is great for stress reduction. All you have to do is breathe in through your nose to the count of four and out through your nose to the count of eight. Do this just a few times and you may notice a huge difference in how you feel.
- Be a good listener: Mindfulness can also help us to form better connections with others. Listening is the intentional choice to fully pay attention to the other person—from the tone and texture of their voice to their emotional state and body language. Next time you ask your loved ones how their day was, make sure to really listen. When they are finished speaking, reflect back to them what you heard. This is a great way to enhance our relationships and show our loved ones that they really do matter.
- Practise mindfulness during routine activities: Try bringing awareness to the daily activities you usually do on autopilot, such as eating, taking a shower or brushing your teeth. During these activities, focus in on the sight, sound, smell, taste and feel of these activities. You might even enjoy that slice of pizza more or the activity of brushing your teeth by just paying more attention to it.
- Practice mindfulness while you wait. It is good practice to turn challenges into opportunities. When you find that you are stuck in traffic or a long line in the supermarket, it is easy to get frustrated. But the frustration and all of the behaviour that comes along with the frustration doesn’t change the traffic or how fast the line moves in the supermarket. But we can change our response to the situation. Waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. Use this time to practise focusing on the breath.
- Stop Multi-tasking: Multitasking is the enemy of focus. When we are talking to friends, while texting, and doing who knows what else, it takes us 50 % longer to accomplish a task and we are 50% more likely to make errors. So practise focusing on one thing at a time.
These are just a few tips that can help you step into the present. I encourage you to make time in your schedule daily to be mindful and see what benefits you gain from being in the present moment.