“You’re more likely to feel happy, rather than sad, increasingly likely to live with ease, rather than be angry or aggressive, and be energised, rather than tired and listless.”
Sounds bloody fantastic! What is it and how do I sign up?!
I’ve been hearing a lot about mindfulness lately. Everywhere I look, people are extolling its virtues. Not only are health bloggers and influencers telling me that I can eat and exercise my way to peak physical health, their spotlight is now increasingly directed at my mental well-being.
Always one to try (although often fail!) to stay on trend, and curious as to why mindfulness seems to have grown in popularity exponentially, I decided to investigate. When I read the above quote, I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to give it a try!
Contrary to my previous assumption about mindfulness being focused on completely clearing the mind, in fact its purpose is to become more aware of our thoughts and the feelings we experience and not to push them out altogether.
By doing this, we should start to notice more readily when we become entangled in our thoughts in a negative way and find ourselves increasingly able to deal with that by paying attention in the present moment.
Like many of you, I have a demanding career, so I’m very familiar with the heavy toll our fast-paced and information based lives can take. I often work long hours, I’m regularly accessible to clients, and I frequently work to deadlines. With that, along with a busy social life and juggling my alter ego as a health blogger, I generally have numerous “to-do’s” swirling around in my brain!
So you’ll understand why I’m encouraged to read about some of the apparent benefits of practicing mindfulness:
- Regular meditators are happier and more content than average.
- Mindfulness can improve memory and help focus the mind more easily.
- It can also help treat depression and anxiety and is one of the preferred treatments for depression recommended by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
- It can reduce the impact of chronic pain, cancer and can bolster the immune system.
Wow! It would be remiss of me not to give it a go, right?!!
Never one to be remiss, I recently embarked upon an 8-week mindfulness course. Each week has a slightly different focus but I’m to meditate twice daily for around 10 minutes at a time. So far, I’ve been doing it first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
To give you a flavour, Week One’s meditation begins with the guided audio instructing me to focus on where my body is in contact with the chair and then to carry out a quick full body scan, from toe to tip. Subsequently, I’m directed to focus my attention solely on my breathing and, whenever my mind wanders, to bring my attention back to it. Week Two’s meditation comprises of a more in-depth full body scan.
So how have I found it?
In terms of the meditation itself, it sounds fairly straightforward but it’s really not! I’ve found it quite tough not to let my mind wander, particularly in the morning when it’s whirring with the day’s to-do list. However, the concentration does pay off as, after each meditation, I’ve felt much more channelled and relaxed.
It’s difficult to say for certain whether it’s had any deeper effects, as it’s still early days. That said, at work I’ve found it slightly easier to focus on particular tasks.
When unwanted thoughts have reared their bothersome heads, I’ve found myself more able to focus my attention back to the task at hand. All-in-all I really have felt more chill!
Time will tell if this is all just the placebo effect talking but so far my general review of mindfulness is a positive one. There’s a lot more to it than I’ve given it credit for in this short piece, so I would recommend you do some research and try it out for yourself.
Let me know how it goes. If we can all increase both our mental and physical health just through a few moments of concentration each day, mindfulness is a no brainer really, isn’t it…?
 “Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford and Journalist and Author