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You’re probably familiar with the term ‘mindfulness’. You might even practice it. Mindfulness is very ‘now’, the media full of stories of mindfulness as adopted in homes, businesses and modern lifestyles the world over. And why not? With a range of benefits including improved calm, control, clarity, kindness and compassion whose life wouldn’t be enriched, wouldn’t be a little happier, with a little mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness?
There are so many definitions of mindfulness that trying to pin a single label on it can become overwhelming. Which makes understanding mindfulness difficult. After all, if you struggle to define it in the first place then chances are you’re likely to struggle to appreciate exactly what mindfulness is exactly and how it might help.
In a nutshell, the way I would define mindfulness (based on the definition given by the founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programme, Jon Kabat-Zinn) is this:
“the practice of fully showing up in our life in the present moment; learning to put our full attention on ourselves and the world around us and accepting what we find there without judgement.”
In short – being present and at the same time free of distraction.
How to Be Mindful
Mindfulness can be practiced either in formal meditations or by adopting mindful techniques throughout your everyday life; combining the two into your daily routing will mean that you see the most benefit from the practice.
Formal Mindfulness Meditation 1
Formal mindfulness meditation is actually an ancient Buddhist meditation technique. It’s been around for thousands of years and involves you focusing on your breath to anchor yourself into the present moment. As you allow your mind to wander you notice your attention is taken away from the breath and has become engrossed in your thoughts.
The aim of the meditation is to simply notice that the mind has wandered and to observe your thoughts with mindful curiosity and without judgement. All the while you are aiming to bring your attention back to the anchor point of the meditation and the present moment; the breath.
This formal practice works to help us to understand that by giving less importance to our thoughts and by not trying to push them away, they aren’t able to snowball as easily and ultimately bear less of a negative influence on us.
Formal Mindfulness Meditation 2
Another formal mindfulness meditation involves focusing intently on your body and noticing any sensations without trying to change them or push them away. A well-established technique used by sufferers of chronic pain, by accepting these sensations as they are and by not trying to push them away the pain we experience carries less weight and consequently has less effect on us.
One of the most profound effects of using either of these formal practices is that they help us become more self-aware; we notice our thoughts, we become more aware of our emotions, more aware our bodies and we start to learn to appreciate ourselves as we are.
A Mindful Attitude
In addition to formal meditation practices, there are ways to develop a ‘mindful attitude’ to life.
A mindful attitude simply means putting all of our awareness into the task at hand; using all of our senses whilst carrying out a task, so we keep our focus. Being in ‘the moment’.
A mindful awareness helps us to stop walking around on auto-pilot, our head in the clouds, permanently distracted and constantly caught up in our thoughts.
One example I tend to use with my clients is this…
‘Have you ever driven your car from one place to another, and on reaching your final destination realise that you have no idea how you got there? Yes?… Me too!’
Don’t worry though it’s normal. It’s simply our brain being mindless; so caught up in our thoughts, our mental doodling, that we are not taking in what’s going on around us. Without getting too scientific (I will detail the neuroscience behind mindfulness practice in a later blog), the complexity of our brains means that we are able to safely carry out the task of driving, whilst having our main focus on our thoughts. Essentially we’re cleverly and subconsciously abstracting all the important driving information from the vast amount of stimulus our brains receive and process every second of every day.
The problem though, us that by staying in our heads, fully engrossed in our thoughts, we never fully appreciate the richness of the world around us. Without consciously engaging in the world we run the risk of missing out on its power and its beauty. Essential, life affirming, life enhancing beauty.
Practicing mindfulness helps us to counteract mindless living. It’s a discipline that helps us better appreciate the world around us, develop greater compassion and a joie de vivre, an appreciation of others and also be more productive. A much more positive place to be that stuck in an ill-focused permanently distracted hamster wheel continually draining our time and our energy.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
There are plenty of social, psychological and scientific studies that prove the power of mindfulness. Meditation and specifically mindfulness meditation that positively alters the brain’s neural pathways.
I’ll be sure to take a much deeper look into the science of changes in neural pathways in a later blog, but for now though here are a few of the many documented and proven health and well-being benefits that mindfulness delivers:
1. Stress reduction
2. Anxiety reduction
3. Reduction in feelings of fatigue
4. Improved memory
5. Improved concentration
6. Improved productivity
7. Improved emotional resilience
8. Improved relationships
As a practitioner I have three main aims here:
1. To help clients understanding exactly what mindfulness is and how it can benefit them.
2. To give my clients the different tools and techniques to practise mindfulness.
3. To support my clients in developing their own mindful practice, committing to it and sticking to it.
Personal Brain Training
The support and knowledge I provide to clients is like personal training for the brain. As with any fitness regime, you can’t expect to see instant improvements. It takes more than a single gym session to experience the benefits.
Your brain is a muscle and like the other muscles in your body it needs to be trained in order to develop properly and to strengthen. In order to strengthen your brain using mindfulness, you ideally need to commit to the practice everyday.
Fail to properly commit to mindfulness practice and you’ll fail to feel the full benefits.
Unfortunately it’s often difficult to keep up that motivation on your own, especially at the beginning(I’ve been there), which is why I am keen to also provide the support and guidance to help you to commit to your own practice.
“Catherine is an excellent teacher and is clearly very passionate about what she teaches. I really enjoyed the course and found it extremely helpful. I have now gained a good basic understanding of mindfulness” – Roy Marshall.
“Will definitely be booking more sessions with Catherine.. She made everything make sense and really knew how to make meditation easier for me… Would definitely recommend here” – Hannah Mulvaney.
“Catherine’s 6 week Mindfulness course really helped me in reducing my anxiety and has helped me really enjoy and appreciate meditation” – Charlotte Wright.
1 hour – £40