Actually focusing on what you are currently thinking and feeling is one of the quickest ways to improve your mental wellbeing.
You can be more aware of the present moment by paying more attention to your senses – the sights, sounds, smells, touch and taste of things around you. As well as noticing the emotions and thoughts that are often overlooked. This practice of being more aware of your body and its experiences is called ‘mindfulness’.
Why should I try mindfulness?
Most of us spend our days rushing. We have times, schedules and commitments to stick to and often the day will fly by without a thought being spared on how we feel at any given moment.
Mindfulness helps your mind step back from the noise and activity of the day. It also allows you to focus on your thoughts and feelings at that precise moment. Whether you’re feeling tired, thankful, hungry, energised or stressed, you’re giving yourself time to feel it.
Over time, regular practice of mindfulness can help you identify your feelings faster, and notice when our thoughts, especially ones of worries or stress, begin to take over. You will be able to train your mind to notice these signs of stress or anxiety early, tackle them faster and relax your inner ‘head space’. You might find you feel more calm, your mood improved or a boost in your productivity levels as you clear your mind of the negative thoughts that could be holding you back.
Research has indicated that mindfulness can help with stress, anxiety and depression, as well as physical conditions such as chronic pain and high blood pressure.
How can I be more mindful?
It’s simple! Just reminding yourself to take more time to notice your inner thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
You could try this simple exercise. There’s no right or wrong way to be mindful, but try to be aware of the sensation of your breath entering and leaving the body. You can try this in bed before you go to sleep or anywhere you feel calm.
- Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth.
- Think only of your breath. And feel your lungs and ribcage inflating and deflating with every breath. Take ten or so deep breaths like this.
- It’s natural to be distracted. You might find your mind will wander away from your breathing and think about other things, like what to have for dinner, or an important meeting in work the next day. Simply acknowledge that your thoughts have moved away from your breath, and slowly begin to focus on your breathing once more. Being aware of your distractions is an important part of mindfulness.
- Now you can start to become aware of your body. You can begin at the soles of your feet; feel your feet against the sheets on your bed. Be conscious of the sensation of your feet and what they are touching.
- Next, think about your legs; feel the fabric of your clothes against your skin.
- Think about your chest and stomach; feel the sheets against your arms and the mattress against your body. What are your elbows touching? How do your hands feel?
- Let the muscles completely relax and imagine delivering your breath to the places of your body that feel tension. 8. Work all the way up your body to your face relaxing every muscle – even those in your face – as you go.
Give it a go!
If you find it hard to concentrate on your breathing, a guided class could help. Classes like meditative yoga or Thai chi which helps you focus in on your breathing and how your body feels could help you. Once you feel confident practicing it in a class, you are ready to give it a go at home, at your desk or even your commute into work.
- Mindfulness for mental wellbeing. (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxietydepression/Pages/mindfulness.aspx) NHS Choices. Visited 17 April 2020.
- How to look after your mental health using mindfulness. (http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-look-after-your-mental-health-using-mindfulness) Mental Health Foundation. Visited 17 April 2020.