Mindfulness, and how to do it right
Mindfulness and mindful meditation had become very fashionable recently, but don’t let that put you off. It is simple, and often a very effective way of keeping your stress levels down.
You don't need any particular religious or spiritual beliefs to practice mindfulness. In fact, you can be a complete cynic and still benefit! And you can do it anywhere, so it's very convenient.
Benefits of mindfulness
The beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation tend to increase the more you do it and they include:
- It is associated with lower levels of cortisol, which means less stress
- Students who practice mindfulness tend to get better grades
- It helps you process emotion and memory, even when you're not actually meditating
- It lowers the risk of depression in pregnant women and teens
- It supports weight loss programmes
- It helps you get a good night's sleep
How to do mindfulness
- Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
- Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
- Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and your ideas.
- Embrace and consider each thought or sensation that arrives in your mind without judging it to be good or bad.
- If your mind starts to race or drift off, return your focus to your breathing.
- Then expand your awareness again.
It’s a simple as that, although it does take a bit of practice. And be kind to yourself, many people find it tricky at first, you'll improve as you go on.
It's probably best to set aside about 20 minutes at a time to get the full effects, especially when you are new to the technique.
If you are one of those people who rushes through every meal and barely tastes it, try this one.
- Get a raisin, sultana or other small dried fruit
- Hold it on your hand, become aware of the weight of it, the temperature and how it feels there
- Now put it in your mouth, don't chew yet but hold it between your tongue and the roof of your mouth
- Become aware of how it feels there, the texture, whether you are aware of any taste etc
- Once you are fully immersed in the experience, bite into the raisin and become aware of the burst of taste
If you can eat all your meals in a similar way it will make you appreciate your food more, and you'll probably eat less and lose weight.
You can do this exercise with other foods as well.
Live in the moment
This is just a 'thought habit' which you can build up over time. We often live anywhere but in the moment we are actually experiencing. So you cook the dinner while thinking about work, or bath the baby while worrying about what you will cook for dinner.
- Take a few moments each day to be totally in the moment. Whatever you are doing concentrate on that, and nothing else.
- Be aware of the physical sensations associated with what you are doing.
- Notice how what you are doing looks.
- Feel the texture and temperature of anything you are handling.
- Notice how your body feels and what thoughts are in your mind.
This is similar to the eating mindfulness but you can do it with anything, any time.
It is often best to start with a dull or routine task, you will have fewer distractions and this can make it easier. So live in the moment of the washing up. You’ll be surprised at what you can feel or see in the bubbles. Or (if you have a dishwasher) maybe start with hoovering - becoming aware of the steady back and forth rhythm, the sounds the machine makes, the push and pull of your arm muscles, the changes in the nap of the carpet and so on.
There are loads of resources which can tell you more.
This is one I like http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/benefits-of-mindfulness.htm
And https://positivepsychology.com/meditation-books will give you lots of suggestions about books that can help further.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter on these blogs: Rachel Waller.