People tend to have a lot of preconceptions about mindfulness and meditation. Some think it’s a religious practise, others associate it with being total hippy nonsense that couldn’t ever apply to them. When you think about mindfulness you might imagine shaving your head, wearing an orange robe and sitting in silence for hours on end!
None of this is true. Mindfulness is the ability to be completely present in each passing moment and is associated with lower stress and increased focus. It’s a range of small habits you can make to drastically alter your life.
It starts with learning to focus more on what’s happening around you, rather than getting caught up in thought. The ideas behind mindfulness are absolutely ancient. People have been practicing it for hundreds upon hundreds of years. It’s only now that it’s become more mainstream and accepted throughout the rest of the world. Not only this, but it’s also backed by science:
A number of scientific studies have shown that those practicing mindfulness meditation experience significantly less stress than those that did not undergo training (Basso et al., 2019, Bostock et al., 2019, Surinrut et al., 2016). Mindfulness meditation is also associated with increased focus (Schmertz et al., 2009) and greater emotional regulation (Beblo et al., 2018).
These studies, referenced below, show that mindfulness can increase mental wellbeing and focus. It’s a healthier way to process difficult thoughts and emotions by noting them rather than getting wrapped up in them. Have you ever spent hours on end worrying about something? This is a really common thing that a lot of us humans do. By learning mindfulness, we can acknowledge difficult thoughts and then bring our attention back to the present moment. The result is a calm, clear mind, less distracted by worries of the past or anxieties about the future.
Another reason that mindfulness increases wellbeing is because it provides relief from all the distractions we now have in everyday life. Notifications. Phones. Internet. Notifications. Facebook. Twitter. Emails. Work. More. Notifications. All of these things distract us from life and have led to a lot of people feeling unfulfilled and empty.
It’s simple really, whatever you’re doing give it your absolute 100% attention. If you’re outside in the sun, focus your attention on the feeling of warmth. If you’re having a conversation with someone, give them your full attention. If you’re walking, focus entirely on your surroundings and the feeling of your feet on the ground, noticing everything around you. This will feel really weird at first, because we’re used to being distracted, but eventually it will become more natural.
When you notice yourself getting distracted by, say, something that happened at work or school, acknowledge it and think “Aw yeah, I was worrying about work just there. No problem.” and then bring your attention back to what you were doing. By doing this, we still acknowledge the thought, (which satisfies the mind’s need to think!) but without obsessing over it. It’s a bit like watching yourself from a third person perspective. When the mind is present, we’re naturally calm.
Mindfulness isn’t just for difficult thoughts and emotions. It can also enhance the best moments of life too. The mind is our most important asset. It’s literally how we experience the world around us. By training it to be more present we can also experience the best parts of life to their fullest too.
Meditation – how we can train to be more mindful
You can train the mind to be more naturally present by learning meditation. If you haven’t tried it before, here’s our three step guide to trying it out. Meditation is when we focus our attention on a certain object, when the mind wanders we acknowledge the thought and then bring our attention back to the object of focus. By doing this we train the mind to acknowledge and note thoughts rather than get wrapped up in them. It takes time and it certainly isn’t easy but it’s the start on the road to a healthier and happier mind.
Basso, Julia C.; McHale, Alexandra; Ende, Victoria; Oberlin, Douglas J.; Suzuki, Wendy A. (2019). “Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators”. Behavioural Brain Research. 356: 208–220.
Beblo T, Pelster S, Schilling C, Kleinke K, Iffland B, Driessen M, Fernando S (September 2018). “Breath Versus Emotions: The Impact of Different Foci of Attention During Mindfulness Meditation on the Experience of Negative and Positive Emotions”. Behavior Therapy. 49 (5): 702–714.
Bostock, Sophie; Crosswell, Alexandra D.; Prather, Aric A.; Steptoe, Andrew (2019). “Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being”. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. 24 (1): 127–138.
Schmertz SK, Anderson PL, Robins DL (2009). “The relation between self-report mindfulness and performance on tasks of sustained attention”. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment. 31 (1): 60–66.
Surinrut, Piyawan; Auamnoy, Titinun; Sangwatanaroj, Somkiat (2016). “Enhanced happiness and stress alleviation upon insight meditation retreat: mindfulness, a part of traditional Buddhist meditation”. Mental Health, Religion & Culture. 19 (7): 648–659.