Stress is an inevitable part of life. At times stress can feel totally overwhelming and unmanageable; at other times, stress can facilitate our performance by being a helpful motivator.
Sometimes, coping with and managing stress means that we can spend much of our time focusing on past errors, regrets and loss, or the opposite; future worries and anticipations. Unless our worries and reflections are in fact helping us to process and problem solve, constant past and future pondering can in fact cause us more stress and discontentment. One way to address this is through Mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
The concept of mindfulness has ties to various religious and spiritual traditions such as:
Mindfulness is a process of becoming aware of our senses and paying attention to the present moment – not getting ‘caught up’ in our thoughts.
Mindfulness means paying attention with flexibility, openness and curiosity
Rather than fighting with or avoiding unpleasant emotions, in mindfulness we attend to these experiences with openness and curiosity as if we are merely an observer. It is important to remember that the goal of mindfulness is not to be relaxed, the goal is to bring our attention to the present moment and hopefully as a bi-product we may find a sense of tranquillity.
Mindfulness aims to improve psychological flexibility and resilience. It does this by assisting us to:
- connect deeply with ourselves
- learn about how we think
- feel and react
- consciously influence our behaviour
- increase our range of responses to the world we live in.
How to Practice Mindfulness
Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness in your daily routine:
- Sit in front of a clock or watch that you can use to time the passing of one minute. Your task is to focus your entire attention on your breathing, and nothing else, for the minute. Have a go – do it now.
- Sit down at a table and eating a meal without engaging in any other activities – no newspaper, book, TV, radio, music, or talking. Now eat your meal paying full attention to which piece of food you select to eat, how it looks, how it smells, how you cut the food, the muscles you use to raise it to your mouth, the texture and taste of the food as you chew it slowly. You may be amazed at how different food tastes when eaten in this way and how filling a meal can be. It is also very good for the digestion.
- While walking, concentrate on the feel of the ground under your feet and your breathing. Just observe what is around you as you walk, staying IN THE PRESENT. Let your other thoughts go, just look at the sky, the view, the other walkers; feel the wind, the temperature on your skin; enjoy the moment.
If you find these mindfulness exercises difficult or frustrating, you might benefit from our Anxiety Counselling.
Book: ACT made simple, by Russ Harris
Internet: Black Dog Institute- Mindfulness in Daily Life http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/10.MindfulnessinEverydayLife.pdf