The world we live in is a busy one. Many of us exist in the fast lane, and often function on auto pilot, especially at university. We rarely take time to stop, take a breath and focus on the here and now.
There are several benefits of mindfulness including those relating to our physiological, psychological, and mental well-being. Mindfulness can lower blood pressure and heart rate, aid sleep and strengthen our immune system. It can aid stress management, reduce anxiety, provide a sense of calmness, and help build resilience to help us better cope with difficulties as they arise. Mindfulness can also play a part in increasing confidence and self-esteem. But what exactly is ‘Mindfulness?’
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally" - Jon Kabat-Zinn
By focusing attention in this way, we become more aware of the moment, it is clearer, and we are more accepting of it. This in turn allows us to respond to the present and achieve awareness of those things that we value. It enables us to recognise the wealth of opportunities available to aid us in evolving and transforming ourselves, reducing the time we are on automatic pilot.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, here are a few you might like to try:
Meditation can be guided, or unguided where you meditate silently, alone. Whilst meditation often involves lying or sitting, slow walking meditation is an alternative way to focus on your body and thoughts. Meditation takes practise, so be patient with yourself. Aim to meditate for about 20 minutes twice a day.
The simple process of creating art helps to develop an awareness of both ourselves and the world around us. Through the creative process we come to understand ourselves and our experiences. We can use art to express emotions or simply draw a picture of ourself or something around us. Focus on how you feel as you create and how you feel when you have completed the activity.
Mindfulness is not only about taking care of our mind - it involves looking after our whole being, including our body. Physical exercise such as yoga and tai-chi are excellent ways of being fully conscious of our bodies. Yoga, is an inward directive form of exercise which helps you connect with the life around you. Tai chi also helps you to focus inwardly and become conscious of the movement of your body.
Look at the stars/sky
Mindfulness can be as simple as just looking upwards. Appreciate the slow movement of the clouds, marvel at the stars within our amazing universe and soak up the warmth of the sun on our bodies. Noticing our surroundings helps to create calm and appreciation within us.
Keeping a journal can help put your feelings in writing. This enables you to become free from negative thoughts and move on. Putting the date to your thoughts allows you to remain in the present and look back so you can see how far you’ve come. Being reflective when writing your journal helps you to stand back and consider your situation. You can also use your journal to create a gratitude list and help you focus on the positive aspects of your life.
Mindfulness is a conscious choice to become aware of the present and your surroundings and appreciating this. It might be something that you have to continuously practise but it is important that it becomes a part of your daily routine to build equilibrium and happiness in your life and create physical and emotional well-being.