What is mindfulness?
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
“It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour,” he says.
“An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
“Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.
“It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing
According to the NHS; Website;
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.
“Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience,” says Professor Williams, “and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
“This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.
“Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: ‘Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?’
Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression in the past.
How to be more mindful
Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.
Notice the everyday
“Even as we go about our daily lives, we can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk,” says Professor Williams. “All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life.”
Keep it regular
It can be helpful to pick a regular time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you.
Practical mindfulness activities for children
Here are some ideas for introducing mindfulness to the young people in your lives:
- Guided meditation – if you want to set up a guided meditation session at school or at home, there are plenty of books, CDs and even YouTube videos out there to help you. Simply schedule a time, get everyone in a comfy position and press play – it couldn’t be easier!
- Mindfulness story books – there are lots of children’s books out there which explore the idea of mindfulness, so for groups who are new to the concept, this might be a good place to start.
- Mindfulness games – learning to notice the world around us can be fun and exciting! There are lots of games you could play to introduce or develop the principles of mindfulness. From blowing bubbles to exploring smells, tastes and textures – or even using dedicated cards or games you can purchase, there are plenty of options available. This website has some lovey ideas to get you going!
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