The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is Mindfulness. So what exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment without being stuck in the past or worrying about the future. You can use mindfulness in nearly every part of your life, for example when brushing your teeth just focus on brushing your teeth. Notice what the toothpaste looks like and then what it smells of. Notice the taste of it. Focus on brushing each tooth. Multi-tasking isn’t good for our mental health, it can be incredibly helpful to slow down, be present and just notice but you will probably do a better job of brushing your teeth in this case too!
You can also be mindful when walking or driving, have you ever gone from A to B but you can’t really remember the journey? That is because you were not being mindful, instead you were probably being ‘mind full’. When walking, notice your surroundings. What can you hear? What can you see? What does the air feel like? Can you smell anything?
It is also possible to eat mindfully and non-judgementally. In my eating disorder group we describe the packaging using facts such asthe colour or images that are printed on the packaging. Then we look at the food, we notice the colour and if the colour varies. We notice the texture. What does it feel like? What does it smell like? Then we put the food in our mouth and just notice what it feels like in our mouth before chewing it slowly and mindfully. Often people find that the flavour is much stronger than it normally is.
There are so many different ways that people can use mindfulness, what helps one person may not work for another and so it is important to try various methods. I use mindfulness in two ways. Firstly, with music. I will put a song on and try to listen to all of the lyrics and focus on what the song is saying. I also use mindfulness in the bath. I will drop a bath bomb into the water and notice the colours and smells and for a moment all I am thinking about is that bath bomb and it offers respite from my thoughts and calms my mind.
Your mind will drift off but that’s okay, acknowledge the thought and then go back to focusing on the mindfulness task that you are doing. Everyone’s mind wanders, that’s just what it does so don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t remain present the entire time.
Mindfulness can help improve both physical and mental wellbeing. Being fully engaged in activities can make life more pleasurable and enjoyable. Mindfulness can offer respite from worries and distressing thoughts leading to a decrease in stress and making it easier to sleep.
Check out this awesome TED talk by Andy Puddicombe on Mindfulness: