The art of Mindfulness is about experiencing the present moment and being fully aware of sensations in our bodies, calmly accepting emotions and thoughts without judgement as they come and go. With our increasingly busy lives, we spend much of our time worrying about meeting deadlines or focusing on what ‘might happen’ as well as ruminating about past events.
Regular practice of Mindfulness meditation, which originates from Buddhism, can contribute to the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression and help us to be more in tune with our relationships (including the one we have with ourself!), more aware of our current environment and experience more enjoyment of the simple things - listening to music, eating a good meal, walking and being outside.
I recently did a Mindfulness talk to police officers and police staff at a conference and during my own preparation for this, I discovered so many benefits to the meditative practice that have been proven by research. Here are a few:
Feel less 'stressed' – decreased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol
Improves memory and cognitive function
More calm and connected to the needs of our bodies
Realisation of more choices to deal with difficult situations
Improved leadership skills – boosts empathy
More meaningful relationships
Helps up to achieve better work/life balance
Improved wellbeing and resilience levels
Boosts immune system
Improved emotional intelligence and self awareness
Neuro scientific studies – improvement in attention and emotion regulation skills
Recommended by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression
With a list like that, why wouldn't you want to read on for the top tips?!
Mindfulness Top Tips
So, with an average of 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day, how do we quieten our minds to prevent 'living in the past' or spending too much time worrying about the future?
Learn how to breathe effectively, taking care not to breathe too shallow. Make use of your lung capacity to fill them with oxygen. Breathe out slowly. There are lots of breathing techniques out there but a general tip is to ensure you breathe out for longer than your in breath - keeping it comfortable for you.
If you find relaxation difficult, then build being mindful into your daily tasks. Try walking mindfully to your car - be aware of the speed of your steps and slow them down. Notice the environment around you. What sounds do you hear? What smells can you detect on the air? Let your thoughts pass by without judgement and notice the rhythm of your breathing. Other tasks like washing up, cleaning your teeth and cooking are good times to practice.
If you exercise regularly, introduce Mindfulness to assist performance.
Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are ideal activities to enhance Mindfulness and create balance between the mind and body.
A smartphone app, such as Headspace can help with maintaining regular practice
Practice...a lot. Make Mindfulness and relaxation part of your life.
Give yourself time and don't give up - it doesn't take one visit to the gym to make you physically fit right?!
Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and expert on Mindfulness - see his video below "All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes"Fancy some reading material to get you started? I recommend the following books on Mindfulness - they are all engaging, informative and jam packed with techniques and ideas for Mindfulness practice