Do you hear mindfulness mentioned a lot? Have you tried it? Do you find yourself wondering if it is something you should be doing? Or is mindfulness all just nonsense?
I hear and read snippets about it everywhere. On-line, in the books I read, in the magazines I pickup and even at my book club the other evening (where someone attempted to explain it to the rest of us!).
So I find myself asking “what exactly is mindfulness and does it work?”
I am on a mission to find out….
In simple terms what is mindfulness?
It is paying attention to the present moment, on purpose and without judgement.
Right here, right now. Easier said than done in this busy and chaotic world we live in, with so many distractions, shiny objects and information overload.
So far so good. I understand that bit, but how do we actually do that, when there is so much going on in our lives and heads?
How do we do mindfulness?
This really took some fathoming out as there is lots of good advice out there on how to actually do it. But I wanted to keep it simple, to see if it really works. If I like it and there are benefits then I decided I would look into some of the recommendations further. So for the moment I was looking for a way that was quick and easy.
I wanted a daily practice, one that did not take very long but gave me the benefits of mindfulness with, at this stage, very little effort. The way I explored was meditation.
As I found out meditation is easy and can be done anywhere you can close your eyes and relax. It is not woo woo and does not involve doing anything weird. All you have to do is close your eyes, relax and focus on your breath, for as long as you can, need to, or want to. See I said it was easy.
Here is the important part. Thoughts pop into your brain and distract you from your breath. Listen to them, observe them, then let them pass with no judgment, consideration or criticism. They are merely passing by. Every time your mind drifts re-focus on your breath again. Keep doing this for the full meditation, then when your time is up or you feel ready, open your eyes and you are back in your life.
Sounds too easy? Grab your phone, set the timer to 5 mins, close your eyes and focus on your breath observing your thoughts then sending them on by without judgement.
What do you think?
When I first did it the 5 mins flew by. I had lots and lots of thoughts come into my head but kept bringing my attention back to my breath. When the time was up I felt calm, relaxed and my brain felt somehow not so cluttered but more alert. If that makes sense??
The next few times I did it, I did not set a timer and found myself wanting to open my eyes after about 10 mins, so now I have decided to meditate for around 10 mins each day. It stills feels alien to call it meditation!
What will mindfulness do for you and your life?
Ok, so here’s the thing – mindfulness can do so many amazing things. But here is the other thing, really??!! Yes I am sceptical, or should I say was.
There is lots of scientific evidence to prove mindfulness can help with chronic pain, depression and stress. Which is amazing. I wanted to know if it will calm my mind, make me more creative, make me more live for the moment, make me think better, will I feel less overwhelmed and will all those things improve my working life, my relationships, my home life and make me a more fulfilled and happier person. What a big ask.
I have only been doing it for a short period of time. And I would say it is amazing. My brain feels less cluttered, my mind more focused, I think about the here and now more, I appreciate the moment more, I look around me more, I am much more grateful for what I have and don’t focus on what I don’t have and I am much calmer. But one of the things I did not expect is thinking about nothing but your breath for 10 mins clears my mind enough to let lots of ideas come flooding out. I would now call myself a creative person. Result! I would also now call myself a very productive person. Before I used to get lots done, but now I get loads done.
How can we incorporate mindfulness into our lives?
I do my meditation every morning. I get up earlier so I can fit it in. I grab a glass of water, sit somewhere quiet then close my eyes for 10 mins and see what happens.
I also fit in what I call “pretend meditations” throughout the day. When I am waiting somewhere, I will simply focus on my breath (without closing my eyes as I may get strange looks from the other people around me) and let thoughts come and go.
The one other thing I have noticed myself doing automatically is being in the moment a lot more. Then appreciating that moment. For instance walking to school chatting and laughing with my children, the beautiful bird song, the lovely blue sky, the amazing things around us, the wonderful people I meet and so much more.
Does mindfulness really work?
One answer….YES! Well it did for me. But if nothing else I love my 10 minutes every day of thinking about nothing but my breath. I am now looking into it further and, as I always do whenever I am looking into a new idea, going to look for a good book on it.
I am no mindfulness practitioner and no expert whatsoever in the practice. I am simply sharing with you what I discovered and how it worked for me. So please do your own research and check it out for yourself to see if it is right for you.
Books about mindfulness.
A couple of months ago I was due to see Ruby Wax speak about her book on mindfulness. Sadly, due to personal circumstances she had to cancel. However, I still plan to read her book A Mindfulness Guide For the Frazzled.
I have also seen reviews about The Little Book of Mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard. It sounds like a really good little read.
I have read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben which is definitely worthwhile as it talks about lots of helpful things you can do in life to make it more fulfilling, not just mindfulness.
And finally I picked up a really good read in a local book store a few years ago called The Battersea Park Road to Paradise by Isabel Losada. It starts with the words “Feeling stuck? Yes me too. I’m in a pothole on the road to enlightenment.” Which kind of sums up the whole book. There is lots in there about meditation and lots of other helpful, enlightening and amusing anecdotes of her quest “to be absurdly happy every day.”
I am also going to check out Head Space online as I am hearing so much about it.
So over to you?
Will you try it? Let me know how you get on in the comments below, I would love to know. Do you already practice mindfulness? Can you pass on some tips to others? Your comments would be lovely to read.
If nothing else, the next time you are in a queue do a pretend meditation and focus on your breath, but don’t miss you place in the queue 🙂