The term mindfulness has been bandied about frequently in recent years but what does it actually mean? and what can it do for you?
I first became aware of the term about 7 years ago and although I tried to practice it, I was not very successful or perhaps committed, at that time. I am a personality type where my head is constantly full of chatter, over-thinking, over-worrying and just general clutter and so a half-hearted attempt at mindfulness is unlikely to have any impact.
More recently, I have come across mindfulness again and I am trying to implement it into my every day life. OK it is not perfect at the moment, but it is work in progress. Just to briefly summarise, my understanding of mindfulness is that you try to capture the present moment in an attempt to ground yourself. This is particularly important for those of us that get trapped in our minds, held capture by intrusive thoughts or past experiences. By using your senses, you can listen to the sounds around you, smell the scents in the air, pay attention to the detail of what you see, maybe feel something tangible as well as feel your own personal feelings.
You do not ignore your thoughts, you take notice of them and any associated feelings in that moment – maybe name the feelings (anxiety, fear) and then you let them pass on again. This grounding process can relieve you of a chaotic mind and stress, retrieve you from depressive thoughts and for me, most importantly, bring you out of the depths of your mind – back into the here and now. Of course, what works for one individual may not work for another but that applies to most forms of therapy, both holistic and medicinal.
One reason why I consider that I should pursue this, is because I am reading increasing reports on its benefits – anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive behaviours, eating disorders and so on. I am concerned in particular with my short-term memory, I find I am being quite forgetful. I think that being so ‘brain cluttered’ with work, personal life, children, animals etc. (not unlike many others) that this may contribute to these episodes of forgetfulness! With mindfulness in mind, I have decided to start implementing it frequently during my day both consciously and when I catch myself in a chaotic thought cartwheel (this will be the hardest time!).
So, my practice so far has been mainly focused on my outdoor activities, when I am walking the dogs. Whilst, I am having to pay particular attention to my young Husky, I do also want to be more in touch with my surroundings and so attempt to come out of my head and see what is going on around me. I am fortunate that I live right next to National Trust property so there is a beautiful walk on my doorstep – I am now noticing more and more details of this daily walk. I am starting to differentiate between different bird calls and notice that the estuary can really stink at times! Unfortunately, I see plenty of litter and dog mess on the path which stresses me out, but mostly this is a really positive experience.
I am needing to work harder on capturing the moments when my thoughts are cartwheeling, but as I say this is work in progress and I am really looking forward to my journey, taking mindfulness forward. My personal expectations are for a clearer mind and therefore, a more positive out look and less episodes of forgetfulness in busy times – otherwise I am going to need a PA or a trip to my GP!
Please feel free to share any tips or your advice on mindfulness with me.
Thank you for reading.