Practicing Mindfulness This May

As human beings, our minds tend to wonder off, whether this is thinking about an upcoming holiday, or worrying about an exam coming up – we lose touch with the ‘here and now’ experience. This, of course, can cause us to feel stressed, tired, and leave us feeling a sense of anxiety lingering around. Mindfulness is the technique to bring someone back to the ‘here and now’ and offer a way of freeing yourself from automatic and unhelpful ways of thinking and responding.

Benefits of Mindfulness: 

There are benefits for Mindfulness practice for everyone, but especially for people with emotional difficulties. Their habits can involve being overly pre-occupied with thinking about the future, the past, themselves, or their emotions, in a negative way. Mindfulness training does not aim to immediately control, remove, or fix these unpleasant experiences, but rather the aim is to develop skills to place the individual in a better position to break free of these unhelpful habits that are causing them distress and preventing positive actions. Mindfulness is used by many people on almost a daily basis, whether it’s to help them with stress from work or family life, or to allow them to be more in touch with themselves, or even as an additional technique to support in therapy (for example, with some OCD clients).

Core Features of Mindfulness:

1.   Observing: This initial step involves observing experience in a way that is more direct and ‘sense mode’, rather than being analytical (‘thinking mode’). Mindfulness aims to shift one’s focus of attention away from thinking to just observing thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in an open, kind, and gentle curiosity.

2.   Describing: This aspect relates to noticing the very fine details of what’s being observed. For example, describing an apple’s shape, colour and texture.

3.   Participating Fully: The aim here is to engage in the whole experience, without excluding anything, noticing all aspects of whatever the task or activity is.

4.   Being Non-Judgemental: Adopt an accepting stance towards the experience. Bringing a kind and gentle curiosity to the experience is important for this element.

5.    Focusing on One Thing at a Time: When observing your own experience, a certain level of effort is required to focus your own attention on only one thing at a time, from moment to moment. Being ‘present’ is an important skill to develop. It involves noticing when you have drifted away from the observing and sensing mode, into thinking mode. If it happens, gently return yourself to the desired state.

You might be thinking, when do I have time to do this in my busy day? Good news is, mindfulness can be done in many different ways and can take as little as one to five minutes! We have listed some simple and quick techniques that you can use:

One - Breathing Exercises: Both these exercises can be done sitting or standing up. The purpose of these are to focus on your breath for one to two minutes.

Deep Breaths

  • Breathe deeply through your nose, breathe outwards from your mouth, pause for 3 seconds and rest in stillness

  • Repeat eight times

  • During this time try to have no thoughts in your mind and just focus on your breaths as they fill your lungs

Mindful Breathing: 

  • Begin by breathing in and out slowly through your nose (each breath cycle should be between five to seven seconds) for about three cycles

  • Now, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Allow your breath to flow effortlessly in and out of your body

  • During this process, try as hard as you can to let go of things on your mind that are stopping your attention from concentrating on your breaths

  • Focus on your breaths, and on your sense of awareness on it going through your body and out of your body

Two: Observing Exercises: These exercises’ purpose is to allow you to notice and appreciate simple elements about yourself and your environment in a more insightful way. They can take between 1 – 5 minutes, depending on how much time you have.

Mindful Observation: This exercise is designed to connect us with our surrounding environment that is easily missed on a daily basis as we are going about our day.

  • Step one, pick a natural object from your immediate environment, such as a tree, cloud, or flower, and focus on it for 1 to 2 minutes. 

  • Just focus on the object and don’t do anything else. While watching it, relax and allow yourself to simply focus for as long as you can

  • Look at it, admire it and be curious about it. Explore every part of it and allow yourself to be drawn into that moment

  • Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its purpose to this environment and world

Body Observation: You can do this by sitting on the couch, on a train or even in a chair in the office. The purpose of this is to tune into your body.

  • Whatever you are doing while sitting down, just stop for a minute – don’t change your posture or sitting position – just notice it

  • Think if you are more tense than you should be. Feel it in your face, legs, arms, shoulders (usually where most tension is held), or in your eyes

  • Notice your breath. Is it calm? Heavy? Or fast?

  • Begin softening your muscles slowly and consciously

  • Listen to what your body wants – what it’s telling you

  • Bring your focus to your breathing. Take three or four deep breaths and sigh at the end of each one. Allow the breath to find its own rhythm – calm, open and natural

  • Now you can continue what you were doing, remaining aware of your body and breaths

If you found these exercises helpful then good on you! - Mindfulness isn’t actually that hard for you to do.

If you are having trouble with anxiety or stress, and would like to learn more about mindfulness techniques or other techniques to support you with this, then start off by giving us a call to make an appointment with one of our team of Psychologists.