THE BLOG

The Art of Being Mindful

03/11/2014 11:48 GMT | Updated 01/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Do you ever find yourself rewinding the movie you're watching over and over again? Do you have to read the same paragraph multiple times? Most people are unmindful several times a day; simply being unaware of their surroundings or what's going on. Practicing mindfulness improves both your mental and physical health. Do you ever find yourself trapped in the unending negative cycle of anxiety, self-harm, anger, or self-hate? Practicing mindfulness and implementing it in your life could help.

Being mindful is just the act of focusing on the present, focusing only on the activity that you're doing at that moment in time. Mindfulness is about stopping those wandering thoughts. It's not as easy as it sounds; the slightest noise like the ticking of the clock can become a distraction, even more so with the sounds of people talking all around you. It could be that you get lost in a train of thought, a memory, a worry, a fear. Once you head down that pathway of anxiety, anger or negative emotion, it snowballs and gets worse and worse until you're stuck in a panic attack or reduced to behaviour like self-harm. It won't be easy to train yourself to stop but you can do it over time. It doesn't even have to be that you stop those thoughts all together, I'm sure everybody who has ever tried to stop thinking about something has thought about it ten times as much, so sometimes it's a case of observing those thoughts but not getting lost in them. You can 'notice' that you're thinking something, and recognise it, but don't follow it, don't get caught by it. As a Hypnotherapist I always ask my clients to think of it as a conveyor belt or a train where you see the thoughts going past but you don't get on the train.

As well as not following a train of thought, mindfulness can actually be a method to prevent anxiety before it even starts. If you do feel like you're in a stressful situation, for example you have social anxiety and crowds scare you and you're stuck in a room full of people, look around you. Think about textures, smells, colours, feelings, all your senses and describe what is happening, even if it's just for a minute or two. You might be sitting there and think, 'The lady next to me is wearing a red polka dot vest and dark blue denim trousers, she smells like lavender, she's wearing shiny black shoes and she's tapping her feet on the floor. The table in the middle of the room has a vase of white roses on top of it' and so on. Sometimes it can help to begin each sentence with 'I'm noticing...' so you might say, 'I'm noticing that I can feel the breeze on my neck. I'm noticing that my shoes are too tight. I'm noticing that I can smell oranges'. It's amazing how focusing on the really little details can help distract you, but you really have to put the effort in to focusing on it 100% which is what mindfulness is really all about.

You don't have to be at the onset of negative emotions and thoughts to practice mindfulness. So that you are better prepared when you do reach that crisis point, practice it randomly throughout the day. You might be washing your hands and focus on how the water feels tricking through your fingers, how it feels to rub your hands together, what the soap looks and feels like if you rub it between your fingers. Walking outside is an excellent time to practice mindfulness, not only are there a lot of distractions that you can prepare yourself against but there's a lot for you to think about. Can you feel the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair? Is the grass crunching under your foot or is it soft? Is the grass very green or is it quite dull or brown? Although not a natural part of your day, you can try mindfulness with objects. Either carry a stone or shell or something interesting around with you, or maybe keep one at home to practice with, but notice the texture of the object, the temperature, how it feels in your hand, does it smell, are there any interesting patterns? You could try to be more aware when you're eating and think about all the flavours you're tasting, the smell before you eat it, is it chewy, crunchy?

There are thousands of ways that you can introduce mindfulness in to your life and it's possible you are quite mindful already without already realising it. Taking the time to sit down and really focus on something is an excellent distraction technique, or implementing mindfulness when you're working can help improve your productivity and motivation. Maybe you won't have to read the same page ten times before you can move on next time!