Mindfulness: it is very difficult these days to not have heard of mindfulness, but hearing the word and knowing a) what it means and b) what it’s all about are very different things. The amazing Tracey Baum (Mindfulness Practitioner & Trainer, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Master NLP Practitioner & Trainer) of www.lifepracticestalbans.co.uk is here to guide us with great advice and tips.
“I think it’s generally well known that mindfulness has something to do with helping us deal with the stresses and strains of everyday life in a better way. The questions I hear a lot are, “so how do we do that? My head is full of stuff that I have to do, need to do, haven’t got time to do. I haven’t got time in my day to do all things I have to let alone take time out to stop and do nothing”. I think it was Mahatma Ghandi that said, “the busier I am, the more mindful I need to be”.
So what is mindfulness?
Jon Kabbat Zinn who has been acknowledged as the founder of what we all now call mindfulness defines this as state where we are:
Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally
Paying attention: noting and observing what’s around you; how many people do you see every day so engrossed in their phone or other electronic device that they miss a beautiful sunrise/ sunset or the colours of the autumn leaves as they turn?
In a particular way, on purpose: focusing your observation and notation of what’s around you.
In the present moment: only concerning yourself with what is actually happening now. You can’t change what happened five minutes , five hours, five days, five weeks, five months, five years ago but we, as humans spend a lot of time regretting what we did or didn’t do in a given situation. In the same way you can’t change what’s been, you also can’t predict the future but that doesn’t stop us spending a huge amount of time worrying about upcoming events. You could say depression is living in the past and anxiety is worrying about what may or may never happen in the future. By doing this and ignoring the present we never truly appreciate what we do actually have, the good things in our lives.
90,000 thoughts a day
Non-judgmentally: not labelling our thoughts as anything other than what they are. We are very good as humans at being our own worst critics. We take our thoughts and become our own judge and jury, finding ourselves guilty of all kinds of things and giving ourselves harsh sentences. It’s not our thoughts that are the issue is the thinking about the thoughts that causes problems. As humans we average 90,000 thoughts a day. How many of those do you think you’re aware of? 100? 50?
In actuality we’re probably aware of about 30-40 and if we’re anxious about something or worrying about something past only maybe 10 or less. What happens to the other 89, 970 thoughts that we’re not allowing to come in to our awareness? Some of those might be really beneficial to us but we’ll never know.
When we are mindful, when we are only observers of ourselves, we learn to not to react to the thoughts and feelings we experience. Imagine yourself floating out of your body and staring down at yourself living your life. You are then the observer of you, you can see everything going on but you are not reacting to anything that’s happening.
Are you in ‘Doing’ mode?
When we react to our thoughts, feelings and events we are putting ourselves into ‘Doing’ Mode. We go in a way in to autopilot, we respond to things without really thinking about what we’re doing. The mound of ever increasing e mails that we never seem to get round to clearing, the phone calls, the demands of our partners, children, family members, friends, colleagues and bosses. Our to-do lists get longer and longer with no possible way of completing them. No wonder then that we often feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious about getting everything done.
When we’re in ‘Doing’ mode we’re looking for the solution, for the quick fix that will solve the problem or make us feel better. If we’re sad, we may try and find a way of feeling happier, for some that’s a bar of chocolate, for others it’s a glass of wine or for some a mind altering substance for example but each time we feel sad, we need more and more of our quick fix to get the same release which might compound the problems we experience.
Moving to ‘Being’ mode
Mindfulness is about moving from ‘Doing’ mode in to ‘Being’ mode. When we are just being, we’re not trying to find a quick fix, we’re not rushing round trying to get everything done. We’re simply observers, letting things come in and out of our awareness, giving us space and perspective without reacting to them, without judging them, being in the present and enjoying the moment. When we learn to step back and only observe our thoughts, we can begin to separate ourselves from any negative influences.
So I can hear you all ask, “How do we become mindful? How do we learn to not react to our thoughts?”
There are several mindful exercises that you can do which will stop your autopilot doing reaction. There are many classes teaching this now and many apps you can download that will guide you through.
However what you will realise that they all start with focusing your attention on to your breathing. Let’s face it, it’s really the only thing we all have wherever we go. By focusing on your breathing you are able, when your mind will wander, which it will because we’re not robots, to bring your attention back to your breathing.
Below you’ll find an exercise you can do if or when you feel anxious or overwhelmed or just want some time out. Think of these key words:
In the Present
Stop – take time out
- Take time to breathe, focus on your breathing, be aware of how you breathe, what muscles do you use to breathe, what’s the rate of your breathing ?
- Observe – be aware of your thoughts, feelings and any physical sensations, be curious about how they’re affecting you and maybe why they’re there. Don’t label them, just observe and be compassionate to yourself. You are not your thoughts, feelings or sensations so have faith that they will pass.
- Proceed – when all is settled again, carry on with whatever you were doing. You may need to repeat the above steps more than once.”
Thank you Tracey, great advice as always. Check out Tracey’s Facebook page for more tips and advice.