More and more of my clients want to know how mindfulness can help to break the cycle of anxiety, stress and unhappiness. In recent years the media has been abuzz with talk about mindfulness and this month’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing entirely on the benefits of mindfulness. So what exactly is mindfulness and how can being mindful help to improve the quality of our lives?
Mindfulness has its origins in ancient meditation practices. However, if you’re thinking that it means sitting cross legged and emptying your mind of all thoughts you would be mistaken. Mindfulness is paying attention to your thoughts, your feelings, your sensations and being in the present moment. It can be practised anytime, anywhere, indoors and out, sitting, standing and walking.
Have you ever gone for a long walk and been so captivated by the sights and sounds of nature that you suddenly realise that five hours have passed? Have you ever listened so intently to a song that for a moment you weren’t thinking about anything except how beautiful the melody was? These are examples of mindfulness.
In our modern busy lives where many of us constantly multi-task in an effort to juggle work, home and other conflicting demands, we are often ‘not present’ in our own lives. We rush about on automatic pilot, failing to notice what’s good in our life, not recognising the early symptoms of anxiety or stress and berating ourselves with self-criticism.
Human minds are easily distracted, habitually introspecting about past events and trying to anticipate the future. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our life. It helps you to observe the way you think and feel about your experiences, whether good or bad. The focus is very much on self-compassion, suspending self-judgement and treating yourself more kindly. Mindfulness will not eliminate life’s pressures or periods of pain and suffering, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner. It can help you to keep going when faced with difficult times and really change the way you manage and react to stressful situations.
An expanding amount of scientific evidence shows that mindfulness really does have an incredibly positive impact on our lives. It positively affects the brain patterns underlying anxiety, stress and depression, thereby giving us a valuable tool to maintaining a healthy and balanced state, in mind and body.
I am a big advocate of mindfulness and this is reflected in my practice. The power of using mindfulness in conjunction with hypnotherapy is that we can teach the brain to be less troubled by negative thoughts and emotions, so that instead of relentless struggle you can find a sense of peace.