With the stressors that can accompany modern life, most notably in more recent times, the prospect of awareness of the self and surroundings can easily be forgotten. Distractions and frustrations can often take a precedent, resulting in a lack of time for looking within in a society that constantly demands external attention.
What Is Mindfulness?
The concept of mindfulness is clarified on the NHS website. Using the quotes of Professor Mark Williams, the former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, they describe the term as the practice of becoming more aware of the present moment, helping us to enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.;
“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs. Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives…
Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.”
In addition to this, mindful.org describes mindfulness as ‘the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’ It encourages the concept of incorporating our bodies into the process, ensuring a balance between mental and physical approaches to the term. Striking a balance between the understanding and acceptance of our mental and physical place in the world and indeed, in that specific moment, can help to create a well balanced holistic approach to our overall physical and mental health.
With this in mind, the concept of taking the time to address one’s understanding and appreciation of the world around us has become somewhat diminished in modern times.
Why Can Mindfulness Help?
Significant advances in the number and quality of research studies regarding mindfulness has contributed to a meteoric growth in the public interest surrounding the topic. Studies into the benefits of mindfulness techniques have been proven to reduce the impact of both physical and mental conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Whilst the immediate perception can be revolutionary, there are still a number of concerns regarding the significance of the results due to sample sizes or problematic experimental designs to extrapolate the findings to universal application for medicinal purposes.
Relevant benefits from the use of mindfulness based on an individuals’ workplace or age have been highlighted, demonstrating a wide-ranging array of positive attributes such as decreasing stress, an enhanced ability to deal with illness, the facilitation of recovery, decreased symptoms of depression and improved overall general health.
A Harvard Health Article on the benefits of mindfulness emphasises the stresses of the modern day in that many mundane day-to-day tasks are often performed with our attention being divided. Attraction to phones, listening to the radio or simply rushing to leave in the morning can all contribute to a lack of awareness and appreciation of the present moment, a pivotal aspect of mindfulness, along with accepting that present moment without judgement.
Within pregnancy, incorporating mindfulness into yoga routines has been shown to have a positive impact with women reporting significant reductions in physical pain when used in their second trimester. Women in their third trimester showed greater reductions in perceived stress and trait anxiety.
How can I introduce mindfulness to my routine?
One of the biggest impediments to incorporating mindfulness into a daily routine is time. Many people already feel as though their days are busy and to spend a portion of that time ‘not being productive’ can seem like a stressful experience in its’ own right.
It is important to remember that mindfulness is not simply the act of ‘doing nothing’. Mindfulness can be introduced whilst still performing our daily routine, simply dedicating our total attention to the performing of that action; paying detailed attention to the movement of you body and the sights and sounds around you.
Waking up with a purpose is far more likely to make your actions throughout the day more mindful. Clearing your mind, allowing focus on one particular action or aspect of your life can be crucial to enabling the benefits associated with incorporating mindfulness into your routine.
Within the stressors of a normal day, it can often be difficult to set aside a significant amount of time within which you can focus specifically on mindfulness. Taking a short, 60 second recess or ‘meditation minute’ at regular intervals throughout the day can provide the opportunity to re-set as well as focus on one specific thing, often simply your breathing. It is also recommended that any otherwise mundane chores or household tasks can be structured into mindfulness sessions, providing the opportunity to focus specifically on the single action you are partaking in, keeping you in tune with the moment, yourself and the space around you.
Marsha Lucas PhD, author of ‘Rewire your Brain for Love’ describes mindfulness as “a practice that trains your brain to be more efficient and better integrated, with less distractibility and improved focus. It minimises and even helps you become your best self’ when talking to PsychCentral.
The opportunity to touch on a moment of mindfulness, even if only for a brief moment, is positively encouraged and can have a profound impact on your overall health. Whilst the generic methodology remains relatively simple in its’ explanation, the practical implications can sometimes be difficult to grasp, especially in the modern world. Ensuring that small positives are taken from short moments will provide the platform from which greater mindfulness sessions can grow.