MARCH INTO MINDFULNESS
Throughout the month of March, Tackle Your Feelings has been going on a journey of mindfulness. Whether you are new to mindfulness, have never heard of it before or it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, we have some information to help you along the way.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness was introduced originally by Jon Kabat-Zinn to Western medicine as a way to treat chronic pain. He coined this practice as mindfulness meditation and delivered it through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme, at the University of Massachusetts medical school.
Kabat-Zinn applied learnings from both Hindu and Buddhist teachings, specifically the path to enlightenment which encompasses attention, awareness and being present, theorising that if an individual paid attention to their pain rather than avoid it – which would often lead to further distress – the treatment of said pain would be more successful.
Mindfulness has since shifted into mainstream science and medicine, becoming integrated into Cognitive therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment therapy as a pivotal therapeutic technique.
Can I practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a skill and just like any skill there are many ways that an individual can start to learn and become more proficient at mindfulness. Because it is a skill, it also means there is a chance that you might not be very good at it at first. In fact, many people find mindfulness quite hard. We are living in a fast-paced society with information being directed at us in many ways from many sources.
By bringing mindfulness practice into your routine, you can begin to reap the benefits of mindfulness. As with anything, the more you practice, the better you will become. As they say, the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago or today; you can begin your journey to mindfulness straight away.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Research into mindfulness-based interventions has shown that mindfulness practice can help reduce anxiety, depression and pain and to a lesser extent decrease stress and improve quality of life.
In practice, mindfulness is often used in meditation and in certain kinds of therapy, to lower stress level, decrease unhelpful or harmful ruminating and to protect from depression and anxiety. It is also believed to help the individual cope better with rejection and social isolation.
Mindfulness does this by encouraging the individual to become aware of what they are feeling and accept it, vs attempting to ignore or deny these feelings (or in other words pretend that things are fine and carry on regardless) this in turn helps people to understand and cope with uncomfortable emotions, allowing them to gain control and ultimately relief.
Mindfulness can also help you feel happier. By slowing down and deliberately focusing on the moment and every aspect of your experience: what you feel in your body, i.e. body temperature, muscle tension; your thoughts emotions or senses; what is happening around you, also known as monitoring, coupling this practice with acceptance of your thoughts, feelings and emotions, not judging or attempting to change them, will enable you reduce negative feelings and improve positive feelings.
Is it just mediation?
While mindfulness was based on mediative practices, there are other ways that we can bring mindfulness into our lives. We live in a world of constant stimulation often provided by electronic means. Mindfulness is ultimately about slowing down and focusing on the here and now rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
There are many ways to “informally” practice mindfulness, including mindful exercise, everyday tasks or communicating. In each instance you practice being fully present in the moment. Usually this can be achieved by unplugging, or not attempting to multitask. Put the phone away, turn off the radio or TV and just be in the moment. Become aware of the various sensations in your body, the sights and sounds around you. If your thoughts and feelings drift, acknowledge them and gently return your focus to the here and now.
Where do I even start?
Everyday tasks that have become second nature are a great way to begin. Brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating your breakfast. Going for a walk, in nature and becoming aware of your surroundings vs worrying about your next work deadline. Literally stopping to smell the roses.
The Tackle Your Feelings App has a mindfulness section which includes two different 5-minute mindful exercises, a listen along script or a simple mindful breathing graphic.
It is a skill, so don’t expect to be proficient immediately, it may take some time and practice to perfect.
How often should I do it?
Research suggests that the best way to gain the benefits of mindfulness is to practice it every day. Some of the tasks listed above, you do every day anyway. Adopting the practice of doing them mindfully won’t add anything onto you day that time is going to pass anyway.
Whether you choose to practice formally, through mediation, listening to a mindfulness script or setting aside 5min to practice your mindful breathing or you decide to practice more informally, i.e., putting your phone away during mealtimes or when having a conversation, the intention is the same: focus on the here and now, the present moment, the different sensations in your body, what you see and hear around you with no judgement. If your thoughts and attention drift, bring them gently back.
Mindfulness is not for everyone and the important thing to remember is if it does not suit you, do not force yourself to do it. However, do remember it is a skill that will improve over time with practice and a bit of dedication.
Check out our mindfulness section in the App and online, along with many other tips on how to proactively mind your mental wellbeing.