Mindfulness is the act of focusing on being present in the moment, not distracted by modern life, smartphones, computers or TV. Being present (mindfulness) is an important concept to help us deal with stress and to teach our kids.
Dr Jess says: How many times do you see a roomful of people staring at their mobile screens ignoring everything around them? We have become so caught up in the over-stimulating world around us that many of us have forgotten how to take ‘time out’.
Sometimes we need to unplug and experience the world around us. Be human beings, not human doings. Going out in nature is one of the best ways to do this but imagining somewhere beautiful can work just as well.
Excessive smartphone use is associated with negative effects on our focus and concentration, and the more we use them the more impaired our ability to learn becomes (1). We get less smart! It may also negatively affect our ability to relate to other people and understand their emotions (2).
Regularly practising mindfulness changes the chemistry back…
Mindfulness can improve focus and attention, and has benefits in conditions like ADHD (3). Mindfulness has also been shown to enhance memory, comprehension and improve work performance (4). This suggests it could significantly offset the negative changes above from use of smartphones and electronic gadgets.
Mindfulness practise regularly can reduce anxiety, depression and stress by up to 50%, (5) which is better than any medication…
Mindfulness helps us regulate our emotions (6). By becoming aware of, and making time for, how we ‘feel’ we become much better at regulating negative emotions. Studies consistently show mindfulness is an excellent tool for managing stress (7). It also significantly improves anxiety and depression even with risk of suicide (8).
It can even slow the ageing process!
After mindfulness the improvement in brain function, emotional health, physical symptoms and even a reduction in inflammation (involved in many disease processes) mean it improves symptoms of ageing (9). By aiding brain function mindfulness may even help conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s (10).
Take time to focus on beautiful moments (without distraction)…
Children live in the moment automatically and engage and notice the world around them in full technicolor, we learn to switch off as adults. When you look back on the best moments of your life they are unlikely to be the time you spent on Instagram, Facebook or the Internet. Our best memories tend to involve natural beauty, connections with others, milestones in our lives or those of our family. Make sure you focus on the moments you want to remember in all their glory and enjoy the sensation of living.
Feel your breath, your body and the ground beneath your feet… details of colour and smell and the sensation of being present in this moment…
This is the simplest way to practise mindfulness (a basic way of mediating). A way to come back into your body and leave the distractions and pressures of your brain. Even a few seconds of this each day is basic mindfulness.
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
Go out! – There may be 25 things that need doing in your home or at work, but the best way to feel alive is often to go outdoors. Even if it is cold and rainy, but definitely if there is some rare British sun. Smell the air, feel the breeze on your skin, see the sky, look at the trees and plants. If you don’t take the time to notice the beauty in the world around you, you are living life in monochrome. 10 minutes can make all the difference.
Turn off the screens – The modern world is so distracting with computers, Internet, TV, smartphones that all give 24 hour access to information. Whilst wonderful, it is important to also live your own life and bring some richness and colour back into your world. Connect with those around you and really watch and listen. Give time and space to how you are feeling and process what you have been through. Take time to watch the sun go down or up. If you have children, teach them how to play with no overstimulating toys, phones or iPads. Bring back imagination! As a plus to smartphones, however, there are some wonderful 10 minute a day guided mindfulness apps you can use (on aeroplane mode to avoid distraction!)
Be present in your body – Watch people walking along – how many are aware of their surroundings? Often engrossed in reading their phone, or texting, or lost in thoughts and conversations, we forget to feel and experience the day. Bring your awareness back to your body, feel how you sit, stand, lie – breathe through your nose more slowly and thoughtfully. Feel your posture and extend upwards standing or sitting, straight and tall. Feel your weight distributed through your feet as you walk and become aware of the movement… with awareness we avoid injuries and accidents from distraction and we release the stress and tension in our posture.
Take mindfulness into your daily routine – Feel the warmth and relaxation of the water on your skin in a shower, inhale the steam and smell the scent of the soap, listen to the water. When you eat, focus on the food. the colour, the texture and the taste in your mouth – chew and eat more slowly with awareness of the process. Walking up the stairs, feel the movement of your foot hitting the stairs, feel the texture of the bannister, see the colour of the sky out the window. Incorporating mindfulness into your routine makes it easy to fit in with no need for time consuming meditation classes.
Use music to aid relaxation – Sound is powerful and can evoke emotions and bring calm, soothing or favourite tracks can help bring up happy memories and take you into a moment you felt calm and relaxed. Nature or meditation tracks can make the process of mindfulness easier and there are plenty of mindfulness apps which can help talk you through the process for 10 minutes if you are struggling.