What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being in the here and now; in the present moment. It’s often described as “the being mode” or “sensing mode”. It offers a way of freeing yourself from unhelpful ways of thinking and acting.
What Mindfulness is not
It is not being on automatic pilot. How many times have you done the same thing day after day but never really paid attention to what you are doing? Things like driving the same route to work each day and not remembering the last roundabout? Eating your lunch and being surprised that you had finished and that there was nothing left on your plate. Daydreaming whilst vacuuming and then being surprised when you have put the vacuum away to notice bits of fluff still there on the floor? It seems to be a virtue these days to multi-task, but is it really? Would we do a better job and therefore, feel better if we really focused on one thing at a time?
How Mindfulness works
Studies have shown that after just eight weeks there is a significant increase in brain grey matter concentration in areas associated with concentration, emotional calmness and seeing things in perspective. Taking just 15 minutes a day to be mindful (in the moment) increases activity in the left prefrontal cortex – a predictor of happiness and well-being. And it boosts your immune response, helping to defend against illness.
As humans, we are often “not present” in our own lives. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us, or poison ourselves with toxic self-criticism.
Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future. Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. It helps us recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Practising mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work and improve our quality of life.