The importance of daily mindfulness
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” – Jack Kornfield
Everyone bangs on about mindfulness and too much time spent on mobile phones, laptops, electronic gadgets etc but I honestly think that many of you, being younger than me, simply don’t have any concept of life without these. I don’t consider myself to be ‘old’ and I most definitely am not old-fashioned. I am quite up on tech and can even show many younger ones a thing or two in that field – however I do remember life when we were far more ‘mindful’ naturally.
When I started work in the early 80s, we didn’t have mobile phones, let alone smartphones. We didn’t have computers, let alone laptops. I started work in the ‘City’ in a very innovative, modern company where we had – glory of glories – electric typewriters! The Managing Director was very successful, and the sign of success was coming into work at 9.30, leaving by 4.00 pm at the latest and spending at least 2 afternoons per week golfing, sometimes with clients. And he happily passed this appreciation along to the other Directors and employees. We all regularly left work before 5.00 pm… Success was short days, enjoying life outside work and, while at work, being extremely focused on the task in hand – notice I say ‘task’ not tasks. We did one thing at a time and did it well.
A great part of this was because multi-tasking wasn’t the ‘god’ it has become today, but neither were there all the distractions of smartphones, emails, and all the other ‘busyness’ that is today’s norm.
Sadly, I think if you have never known anything except today’s ‘busyness’ it is can be difficult to detach from all the buzz around you and give your poor brain and mind a chance to just relax, step back and let go. This is where mindfulness comes in and why it is SO IMPORTANT!
So, what really is mindfulness? Professor Mark Williams of Oxford Mindfulness Centre says “An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs. Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
So why does this mindfulness help us? If we are more aware of the present moment instead of trying to be in several different places at once (multi-tasking) we can think more about our feelings, the sensations we have and what is happening to us, our thoughts, our bodies and what is happening around us.
As well as being better able to appreciate the enjoyment and beauty of what we are doing or where we are, this helps us become more aware of our stream of thoughts and the feelings we are experiencing from those thoughts. From that, we can see how we become caught up in that crazy tangle in ways which aren’t always useful or helpful. From this, we can step back and begin seeing the patterns of our thoughts which little by little lets us become aware of when our thoughts and their patterns are taking over. Once we are aware of this, we can see them as ‘mental events’ and then we can choose to distance ourselves from them.
“The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” – Thích Nhất Hạnh
We all have problems, pressures, stresses and anxieties as well as wonderful, fun, happy moments. When we practice mindfulness regularly to help us resist problems and more negative events, we can ask ourselves if the fretting and worrying we are doing is productive and helping find a solution, or, are we just entering into our usual thought cycle on this. This awareness can also help us spot any signs of stress or anxiety starting to form and build up so we can manage them more proactively.
Interestingly, 2 people I know who have recently seen the doctor because of stress, anxiety and depression have been suggested starting mindfulness by their doctors rather than medication! It is also something recommended by the NHS, NICE, the Mental Health Foundation and many other such organisations.
When we start to notice what is happening in us and around us ’in the moment’ we start to increase our resilience as well as build our resistance to worry and stress while improving our ability to relax, appreciate and enjoy our life!
So let’s start small: taste what you eat and drink, feel what you touch, hear what you listen to, smell what you breathe, see what you look at and manage what you think!
Start small but start daily… Even better, why not set aside 5 or 10 minutes at sunrise and sunset? Give yourself a holiday, enjoy the pleasure and luxury of mindfulness.
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