#Wellbeing: understanding mindfulness
Mindfulness is our ability to focus on the present and be aware of our thoughts and feelings happening moment to moment. It is about connecting with the present and focusing on the here and now while letting go of overthinking and reactive feelings.
Sometimes we think too much about past memories or future plans that we forget to become engaged with what we are currently doing. Being mindful is an ability that we can all improve by training ourselves and it can boost our well-being and improve our relationship with ourselves. By being more mindful, we can better handle the frustrations of daily life, listen more attentively, lower stress (which is associated with lots of health issues) and improve our mood and mental health.
You can measure how mindful you are by undertaking the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale questionnaire, which is available online.
How to become more mindful?
Taking a mindful walk in the nature can help you connect both with yourself and the environment. Use your senses to become aware of what is happening outside and inside you. Notice the beauty that surrounds you, inhale fresh air and hear the nature sounds.
When talking to someone, give them your full attention. Listen attentively and put the phone down. Taking a step back from technology can also be beneficial, because social media make us lose track of time.
Sometimes we have many thoughts in our mind and that makes us feel confused and overwhelmed. It is very helpful keeping a journal, which will help you not only express your thoughts but also organise them. When you see your thoughts written in front of you, it is easier to prioritise them, take action and focus on one thought at a time.
Take a few minutes each day to write down your thoughts and positive daily events in a journal each evening. Some days, we may be too busy to appreciate or pay attention to the good things that happened to us earlier in the day. Writing down positive thoughts and events and things we are grateful for will help us be more mindful, remember more things from our day and feel better as we engage in positive thinking.
Try a new experience. Try a new cuisine, travel to a new destination, listen to a new song and use a different route to go to your local supermarket. Trying new things will engage your senses and help you see things from a different perspective.
Avoid multitasking. It is actually very hard to focus your attention to more than one single task and it can add unnecessary stress. So, instead try to engage in one single task. It is helpful to also avoid distractions (e.g. by making sure your space is clean and tidy).
We spend a lot of time waiting during our lives, for example when commuting or waiting for someone. Instead of feeling impatience and desiring that the waiting ends, it is much better to bring your mind to your breathing and become aware of what is going around. You might notice something that you haven’t noticed before.
Bring your attention to your breath. Notice as you breath in and out. Do not try to change the rate of your breathing, just become aware of it. As you focus on your breath, you stop thinking about the future and the past, because you are focusing on something that is going on right now. You can do the same thing, when eating your food, drinking your coffee or walking in the street. Try to use this exercise as a practise to ‘train’ yourself to focus on the present moment. An extension of this exercise is to focus on your body. Bring your attention to every part of your body for some seconds, once at a time. Let the mind become one with the body.
You can try mindfulness meditation, which reduces stress and helps clear the mind. There are many free videos available online.
Lastly, it should be noted that it is okay if you notice your mind wandering. Be kind to yourself and understand that this is something normal. If you notice yourself mind wandering, avoid any judgements towards yourself and gently try to bring back your focus to the present moment. Just the fact that you noticed your mind has wandered is a huge progress.
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