Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness is a tool that can help you let go of negative thoughts and emotions you may be experiencing due worry, anxiety or distress. It aims to bring you into to the present. You can use this collaboratively with the previously discussed tools in order to bring yourself into a place of inner peace, which can often encourage positive proactiveness.

Negative emotions and thoughts are often caused by the meanings we assign to situations rather than the actual situation. Mindfulness is about observing your thoughts without attaching negative judgment to them. You are to merely observe them and learn to accept that you can only do your best in the current moment, with the current tools you have. This approach puts us back in contact with ‘The now’, helping to halt worry about future situations, or possible negative outcomes. In other words, mindfulness will buy you a few minutes of quiet time- enough time to rationalise with— and break up— the negative thought cycle we often fall into.

For a real-time example lets say someone offered you a chocolate muffin at work and you couldn’t resist. After eating it, guilt sets in and you feel like you have failed to eat healthily that day, maybe work is tough too, and you find yourself feeling like a complete failure.

Non-mindful thought process;

“ I cant believe I already failed on this diet. I will never be able to stick to anything. I will always have this gut. I cant do anything right. Oh god and what about that project, I’ll never get it all finished on time, I can’t even think straight. I cant eat healthy at a time like this, work is my priority”

Not only has this person negatively labelled herself as a failure, and useless. She has questioned her ability at work, and written herself off being able to live healthily because of work stress. One muffin has thrown her completely off course. After completing a small mindful exercise for a minute or two (see: Exercise 1 or 2), you may approach the same situation with in a much more positive, mindful and non-judgmental manner.

Mindful thought process;

“I ate a muffin, and it was delicious. For the remainder of today, I will just take extra care with what I eat and go for an extra long walk or jog this evening. As for that project – I need to sit down and break it up into jobs and time scales, scheduling in a few solid hours daily. Then I should get it finished on time.”

Mindfulness gives you the chance to stop self-scrutinising, and start being proactive and productive about what may be causing you stress and anxiety. When you fixate on negative self-judgement you endure undue suffering within a given situation. Whereas, by taking an objective perspective and describing what’s happening – without judgement- will allow you solutions more clearly. Slowly but surely you will prove to yourself that you can handle and tolerate difficult moments, this, in turn, will help you adhere to a healthy lifestyle even in times of stress or emotional discomfort.

Meditation podcasts

If you are ever feeling low and/or cannot muster the motivation to counteract negative thoughts, there are guided meditation podcasts available for free online (also found on Podcast Apps and Spotify). Using these will help break your thought cycle without having to actively work, this is largely beneficial in times of fatigue, or low mood. These podcast subjects vary, and you can choose depending on what you believe will benefit you at the time (acceptance or self- compassion for example). It is best to listen when in the bath, or in bed, anywhere that you can find some quiet time and comfort. This will break up your thought cycle and most likely leave you feeling more positive and compassionate towards yourself and situation.

Mindful Exercises

Exercise One – Mindful Breathing

This exercise can be done standing up, sitting down, anywhere, and anytime. The aim is to be still and focus on your breath. This is a one minute tool that is useful for work, home or away, as most of us can sneak away for at least one minute.

Breath in and out slowly, aiming for one breath cycle to take roughly 6 seconds (breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds, then out of your mouth for 3 seconds). Focusing on your lungs filling with life, and then breathing out any negativity, worries and to-do list on the exhale. Focus solely on your breath acting as a cleanser to nourish your brain and body.

Once you have mastered one minute of tranquillity, you can always try to increase those minutes and maximise the benefit you receive from completing this mindful exercise. Research suggests that many people report that twenty minutes of mindful breathing everyday, largely increases their level of life satisfaction and well-being.

Exercise Two- Mindful Observation

This exercise is simple but effective. Sometimes our thoughts are a little too loud and intrusive for us to find quiet when partaking in a mindful breathing exercise, and that’s the perfect time to try ‘mindful observation’, as it gives you stimuli to focus on.

Choose an object from within your immediate environment. If you are able to it can be more peaceful and rewarding to focus on natural objects like plants, birds, trees, anything nature provided. However, if you are inside, at your desk or even in the kitchen – choose an object you often overlook. Refrain from doing anything other than looking at your chosen object, relax into a stare for as long as your concentration allows. Begin to look at the object as if it is the first time you have seen it, explore it (what colour is it, what does it do etc.) , admire it if possible (“It is so useful yet I have never stopped to appreciate it before”). This exercise is about appreciating your surroundings, bringing you into ‘The Now’. This provides your brain a break from your negative narrative, preventing a spiral. You can easily repeat this exercise multiple times to refocus yourself and stay within a positive mindset.

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