By Dr Susan Chan
Mindfulness involves learning a skill that can be introduced in a few sessions and be with you for the rest of your life. It is a skill that can help you to relax, a skill for health and well-being, a skill to soothe and calm the mind, and a skill that can give you the resilience to thrive.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique aimed at focusing the mind on the present moment, producing measurable improvements in symptoms of anxiety and depression, alleviating feelings of stress and enhancing the quality of life.
So, what is mindfulness, and how does it work?
Mindfulness aims to achieve a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations by knowing what is going on inside and outside your body, moment by moment. In everyday life, mindfulness is about learning to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds rather than ‘living in our heads’.
The challenge is that the pace and stress of modern living leave us caught up in a stream of thoughts and feelings, trapped in past problems or overwhelmed by future anxieties. By connecting with the present moment, we can calmly observe our thoughts, feelings and sensations to become more directly aware of them. Mindfulness practitioners become more able to manage all aspects of their lives.
‘Bitesize’ Mindfulness Practice
Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions and enables the building of inner resources.
- Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench or any special equipment to access your mindfulness skills. You just need to set aside some time and space.
- Observe the present moment. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment without judgement.
- Let your judgements roll by. When we notice judgements arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them and let them pass.
- Return to observing the present moment. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up; practice recognising when your mind has wandered off and gently bring it back.
That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s straightforward, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to keep doing it. Start today. Find a little time for yourself. In fact, setting aside even 15 minutes a day is often challenging, and stopping the mind wandering is even more demanding, but through practice, it becomes easier.