What is mindfulness and how do I achieve it?

21st January 2017

You might have heard the word mindfulness thrown around here and there but apart from hinting towards being something to do with the mind (duh), it’s not exactly clear. So this week, I’ve decided to try explain a little more…

What exactly is it?
As defined by bemindful.co.uk, mindfulness refers to ‘a practice that individuals and groups can do on a day-to-day basis. It can enable people to change the way they think and feel about their experiences, especially stressful experiences. As a mind-body approach, it can increase our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices.’ It essentially refers to making a conscious effort to be more present in the moment, whether that be a situation, your body or your mind. While it certainly has its ties in Buddhism, mindfulness is more of a skill that any of us can learn, should we want to.
Mindfulness and mental health
It has been found by many studies that using mindfulness is helpful to manage mental health problems such as anxiety, mild depression etc. While obviously not a cure, mindfulness helps some people to be more aware of their thoughts and feelings and instead of being overwhelmed by them, they are then able to manage them better.
So how do I do it?
There are various exercises to insert a bit of mindfulness into your life (with some great tools below) but here are a few things you can try:
Breathe – You can do this wherever you are, whatever you are doing but ideally, you want to be able to focus. Pay attention to when you breathe in and then when you breathe out. Make them slower, luxuriate in your breathe (sounds odd, I know!). This is a great technique for calming yourself down if you ever feel anxious or worked up, there is something about drawn out breaths which help us focus. Forget everything that is going on and concentrate only on your breathing technique.
Pay attention – We all find ourselves automatically going through our daily routines almost robotically. Find time to take yourself off autopilot. Make an effort to pay attention to what is around you. Take a walk outside and allow yourself the pleasure of nature. Notice your body and what it is craving from you and how you can help it. Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment – not all those thoughts flitting around your head – and appreciating it.
Control your thoughts – Allow yourself time to just sit alone with your thoughts. Hundreds of thoughts speed through our brains every day and now is the chance to sift through them. Calmly observe your thoughts and feelings and acknowledge them before they grow into something unnecessary. Realise that your thoughts come and go of their own accord, it is whether you decide to act on them which is important and the choice is yours. This time alone means you are able to think more rationally, in an environment that is comfortable for you.

What tools are there to help me?
Since it is currently gaining widespread popularity, there are now multiple resources available to those seeking help with mindfulness:
Headspace is sold as a ‘gym membership for your mind.’ It is an app dedicated to helping you create a happier and healthier life. I’d recommend starting with ‘Take Ten’, the free ten-day programme where you learn the basics of meditation. If you have found you have benefitted from this at the end, you can then subscribe which gives you access to lots of content which can range between anything from 2 minutes to an hour. The great thing is you can focus on one particular area you might be struggling with, such as health or relationships. I really love the app for learning how to incorporate mindfulness in everyday life and definitely recommend it.

Happiness Planner
I’m sure you’ve seen these littered about Instagram as much as I have, but these planners are such much more than a photo prop. Instead of keeping you organised, the Happiness Planners focuses on your happiness. After all, what’s more important than that? Through the planner, you apply practices of mindfulness and positive thinking, focusing on making each day a happy one with help from the planner. Aside from of course being beautifully designed, you are encouraged to practice self-reflection, set goals and concentrate on what makes you happy. I love the addition of quotes as for me personally, these are a great way to start the day on the right foot. If you’re someone who loves writing (and even if you’re not), this is a fantastic tool for you.
You will almost definitely have noticed the colouring book trend that’s been around for a couple of years but it’s for a good reason – it’s incredibly good for you! Used as an alternative method for meditation, colouring is often prescribed to patients as a calming tool. If you are focusing on the intricate drawings, you aren’t paying attention to any troubling thoughts. This allows your brain some downtime and relaxation, a fantastic outlet if you often find yourself full of thoughts. This is incredibly therapeutic and in terms of mindfulness, removes negative thoughts and replaces them with positive ones, leading you to feel better. There are a huge range of options available to you, from Secret Garden to Ryan Gosling! I love Unwind in the Wilds* which is a nature-themed book and includes the most beautiful drawings. I find nature relaxing so for me and when I can’t get outside, colouring images that reflect this really helps. You might not find you have to do much but why not give it a whirl?

Admittedly, this is quite a different post for me but I’ve enjoyed putting something together that I’ve been interested in lately and thought maybe you might be too! To make it clear, I am not a Doctor nor do I have any professional qualifications. This is simply my take on mindfulness. If you’d like to find out even more I’d thoroughly recommend bemindful.co.uk which is a fantastic website.

*Post contains product sample sent for review. As always, views are 100% my own.