Mindfulness is a basic human technique, that is available to each and every one of us – the ability to be fully present, at any given moment. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, not quite. How often do you purposely focus on the here and now? Have you ever noticed how, after driving from home to work, you have no real recollection of the journey, you just got there. Or eating a meal after a busy day – what did it actually taste like? This is called being on automatic pilot mode, we often go about our everyday tasks without any connection to them whatsoever. Mindfulness therefore, is the exact opposite of this. By choosing to be in the here-and-now – paying attention on purpose – we can step outside of automatic pilot. Automatic pilot is the place where patterns of unhelpful thinking, worrying, rumination, and negative dwelling can exist, but we are often unaware that our minds wander to this place. With mindfulness, we strengthen the attentional muscle in brain so that we can quickly identify changes in thinking, bodily sensations, and reactions to stress. When we do this we weaken old, unhelpful and automatic thinking habits. Research shows us that when we train our brains to be mindful, we can remodel the physical structure of the brain – just like going to the gym will help to strengthen and condition the musculoskeletal system.
Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to cultivate and requires effort and patience, much like training in the gym for our physical health. With enough discipline it can help you:
- increase your self-awareness
- feel calmer and less stressed
- choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings, rather than reacting often unhelpfully
- cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts physical discomfort
- be kinder and more compassionate to yourself
- reduce anxiety and regulate mood
- improve sleep
Why not see if mindfulness is for you? I regularly run the 8 week evidence-based Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course in Buckhurst Hill. Please check the events page for more details.