Mindfulness could be defined simply as paying more attention to the present moment; observing your thoughts as they come and go, without judgement. In this always-on, hectic world it’s easy to feel like we’re drowning in our thoughts. Have you ever lain down in bed to go to sleep, only to be bombarded with endless thoughts? For me, mindfulness is about taking a step back from our thoughts; realising that we are not defined by them, they are merely passing through. Think of it like you’re sitting in a coffee shop on a busy street, people watching. People come, they go, some you may focus on for longer than others, but you are only observing.
Being truly present in this world is harder than ever as we face constant distractions, it’s only natural for our mind to need a little rest from time to time.
What are the benefits of Mindfulness?
There’ve been countless studies exploring the impact of mindfulness. I’ve felt an increasing sense of calm and a greater control of my emotions in the last few weeks that I’ve practiced clearing my mind for 10 minutes each morning, but there are many other benefits, including but not limited to:
- Stress reduction
- Boosts to working memory
- Increased focus
- Less emotional reactivity
- Relationship satisfaction
- Better quality of life
(For more information on the studies conducted and other benefits, head over to the American Psychological Association).
How to get started
I’ve only recently come to realise that for years I have misunderstood the idea of meditation. I thought that the goal of meditation was to not have thoughts, to empty my mind completely. This inevitably led to frustration at my inability to do so, and I soon gave up in my attempts, being the perfectionist I am. That was before I discovered a mobile app named ‘Headspace’. It’s basically guided meditation – you simply press the play button, and you’re guided through 10 minutes of meditation without having to worry about if you’re doing it right or not. It was created by a chap named Andy Puddicombe, who spent 10 years as a monk at a tibetan monastery in the Himalayas! Although the app is a paid service (I think it’s around £4 / month – I have absolutely no affiliation or financial agreement with this company by the way!) there’s a ’10 days of mindfulness’ free trial, which you’re welcome to repeat after the 10 days. I’m currently working through this, and will definitely be getting the full app once I’m done; it seems a small price to pay for the benefits I’m seeing.
I’d also recommend checking out a short, 30 minute podcast by Tim Ferris, which you can listen to here. Tim includes some great tools, tips and techniques for practicing mindfulness that have really helped me.
I hope this helps others on their journey towards learning about themselves and staying calm and happy in what can be a stressful and relentless world. If you have any tips for practicing mindfulness, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.