What I Received From Taking a Mindfulness Course
“Mindfulness is not about trying to get anywhere - but simply being aware of where you are and allowing yourself to BE where and AS you are”.
“There is no winning or losing in Mindfulness just simply being”
I, more than anyone would have admitted to being a little bit sceptical when I first read about Mindfulness. However, following a greater understanding of the processes, benefits and research behind it I have now adopted it as a part of my training, just like going to the gym and I would like to talk about why I think you should do the same.
The research around Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction shows us that it is a key element in fighting stress and helping with many of the below symptoms of stress.
· Constantly feeling anxious and worried.
· Feeling irritable, agitated and easily annoyed.
· Low levels of energy constantly waking feeling tired.
· Difficulty concentrating.
· Restless sleeping.
We tend to constantly talk about our physical fitness and ways in which we can improve it. Although this certainly has an impact on our psychological health, we do not tend to take specific time and devote it solely to improving our mental strength. This is mainly because we don’t actually know how to incorporate activities to improve our mental health such as medication for example. What surprised me was the whole piece around “Mind-sets”. Having a background of working with people on a 1 to 1 basis over the past 11 years I have at one time or another come across each of these mind-sets and have even been guilty on many occasions in the past of falling into the trap of self-limiting thoughts.
Take a look at the following Mind-sets and ask yourself do any resonate with you?
· All or Nothing Thinking: If I am not perfect, I have failed.
· Mental Filter: Noticing failures but yet ignoring success.
· Jumping to Conclusions: Are you a mind reader or a fortune teller?
· Emotional Reasoning: I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot.
· Labelling: I am stupid, what evidence have you got?
· Over-Generalising: Seeing a pattern based upon a single event or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw.
· Disqualifying the Positive: Discounting the good things you have done.
· Magnification and Minimisation: Blowing things out of proportion.
· Using Critical Words Negatively: Should, Must and Ought to normally carry guilt or indicate we have already failed.
· Personalisation: Blaming yourself, or others in circumstances that it was actually your fault.
Now if you read through these and thought “no none of these mind-sets showed up in me”, well then you are perfect, but something tells me just like it is for me, that may not have been the case.
“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” according to Marsha Lucas, Ph.D, psychologist.
There are many simple ways you can be more mindful. Here are five tips to incorporate into your daily life.
1. Practice mindfulness during routine activities. Try bringing awareness to the daily activities you usually do on autopilot, this can be running in the morning or eating your lunch let your mind be the driver not your body. Zero in on the sight, sound, smell, taste and feel of these activities.
2. Practice when you wake up. According to Marsha Lucas, “Mindfulness practice first thing in the morning helps set the ‘tone’ of your nervous system for the rest of the day, increasing the likelihood of other mindful moments.” If you find yourself dozing off, as Lucas does, just practice after having your coffee or tea. But “…don’t read the paper, turn on the TV, check your phone or email, etc. until after you’ve had your ‘sit,’” she said.
3. Keep it short. Our brains respond better to bursts of mindfulness, aim for 3 minutes 3 times a day to start as being mindful several times a day is more helpful than a lengthy session. For instance, you can tune into your body, such as focusing on how your feet feel on the floor as you sit at the desk in that moment, there truly is no right or wrong way to do mindfulness practice.
4. Practice while you wait. In our fast-paced lives, waiting is a big source of frustration, but it can actually be an ideal time to practice mindfulness and raise self-awareness. When you’re waiting in traffic for example bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the flow of the breath in and out of your body and allow everything else to just be, even if what’s there is impatience or irritation. The fact you can recognise this means you can control it.
5. Pick a prompt. Choose a cue that you encounter on a regular basis to shift your brain into mindful mode like your morning coffee or even better, give yourself 5 minutes to your journal at the beginning of each day as a reminder to be aware and live in the moment.
Mindfulness isn’t a luxury, Lucas said, “It’s a practice that trains your brain to be more efficient and better integrated, with less distractibility and improved focus. It minimizes stress and even helps you become your best self.”
What I would like to leave you with is research from Richard Davidson at the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, which shows that all of us have an emotional “set point.” “Some of us have more of a tendency toward withdrawal, avoidance, negative thinking and other depressive symptoms, whereas others have a greater tendency toward positive moods such as, being curious, tending to approach new things and positive thinking. Davidson has found that through mindfulness, we may be able to train our brains and shift our set points.
Much of what is only is because we believe it to be, we must challenge our thinking, analyse the facts and put the mind back in control of the body and not let our feelings constantly dictate our behaviours. I have found personally, I can achieve this through the Mindfulness Practice.