Is Mindfulness all it’s cracked up to be?
A few months ago I left the Core Psychology Office one Wednesday to go and grab some lunch and to do some banking. About ten minutes later I was back at my desk eating some sushi and the envelope of money was gone….. except that I had no memory of going to the bank to deposit it. Frantically I went back to where I’d bought lunch, checked the other shops I’d been to. It was nowhere to be found. By putting together fragments of my memory I realised that I had actually posted the envelope full of money, and a stressful and expensive mail bag sorting later, the envelope full of money was recovered.
Now, normally I manage to stay pretty on top of things. So what on earth went on there? Was this early onset dementia? Nope, this is just an example of a common blight affecting many of us in this ever-increasing rush that we call life. I was operating completely on auto-pilot, barely paying attention to anything that was going on around me.
And this is where Mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is a state of active and open attention on the present moment. When you’re mindful you can begin to notice your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. It is a very effective way to switch out of autopilot. It’s even better at helping you to avoid getting all caught up and freaked out by your thoughts and feelings, all the things your mind throws at your constantly.
Here’s what a regular mindfulness practice can teach you. It will help you to notice when your mind has wandered (to somewhere random, or to somewhere scary or sad). It will help you to see that for what it is (a thought, a memory, a physical sensation, an emotion). It will teach you how to breathe and make room for all of the difficult stuff that shows up. By paying attention to right now we are less likely to get stuck in the loop of reviewing the past or contemplating the future. It will help you to take a moment to settle, and to make a move towards the things that are important in your life.
A recent study by Oxford University found that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy prevented people from experiencing a relapse of depression as well as antidepressants. It’s still pretty early days into research for the effectiveness of Mindfulness in treating psychological disorders, but there are definitely some promising findings. It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a practice that is definitely worth exploring for yourself.
Ready to try a brief mindfulness practice?
Sit comfortably and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Rest your hands on your lap in a comfortable position. Take 10 breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Make each breath a full breath, exhaling completely before you take the next breath in. Notice how the air is cooler on the inhale and warmer on the exhale. Notice any parts of your body where you are holding tension. Breathe into this tension and make a note to address this later (you might need to stretch or check your posture). Consider what value you wish to bring to the rest of your day.
We regularly run Mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy based workshops at Core Psychology. Get in touch to find out when our next workshop is on.