Mindfulness is a much-needed ‘pause’ button for everyday life. It's about being in the present, not the past or future, and using this sense of presence to manage negative thoughts that can take over our minds and make us feel stressed, depressed or anxious.
Focussing all of our attention on the present moment – our emotions, sights, sounds, and bodily sensations – can help us to improve our mental wellbeing and build our resilience. Being resilient is something we can all learn, so we can hang in there through life’s ups and downs. How do we build and strengthen it? It’s simple, by being kind to ourselves, mentally, physically and emotionally; getting better quality sleep, doing moderate exercise, and having some ‘me time’ are good things to start with.
1. How do I start being mindful?
The beauty of mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere, at any time – whether you’re washing the car, walking to the shops, or pulling up some weeds! As long as you focus on the very moment you’re in and notice the world around you – your thoughts and feelings – you can tune in to the experience of even the most mundane tasks and begin to appreciate what you are experiencing in that moment.
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When this happens, we often appreciate the little things that we might take for granted.
“No matter what you’re doing, be in the moment”, says our psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell. Watch this short animation where Eugene talks us through the art of walking mindfully.
2. Is mindfulness right for me?
Mindfulness is right for anyone who would like to feel more in control of their thoughts, rather than their thoughts controlling them.
Being mindful can help us to take a mental step back from the negative automatic thoughts that can crowd our minds, hinder our self-esteem or affect our relationships with those around us. It won’t make your problems go away, but it can give you the ability to see past them and gain a bit of perspective.
We’ve addressed to the top 5 myths about mindfulness, find out more.
3. What is mindful meditation and should I be doing that as well?
Mindful meditation focuses on breathing as way of paying attention to the moment. This calms the mind and the body. When doing a meditation we can notice thoughts and feelings as they appear, allowing them to pass without making judgement, and focussing once again on breathing. It’s something that you can do in addition to everyday mindfulness – many people set aside a certain time of the day for meditation, such as before bed, as a way to unwind.
Eugene Farrell says: "Taking time for ourselves is important, as is enjoying each and every moment; when it's gone, it's gone.
"Maintaining a calm mind and body helps us manage life better and deal with what comes along, to look at things differently rather than letting our learned reactions take over."
In this animated guide, Eugene Farrell, psychological health expert at AXA PPP healthcare, gives tips on how to practice mindful breathing. When you’ve got the hang of that, why not try the body scan technique – a five-minute meditation designed to help you relax and deal with anxiety and stress.
4. What are the physical health benefits of mindfulness?
More research is needed in certain areas, but mindfulness meditation has been found to help with:
- Reducing blood pressure.
- Managing symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as well as chronic pain – and the depression that often accompanies it.
- Fibromyalgia, which is a musculoskeletal condition that causes stiff joints, pain and tenderness throughout the body.
- Treating addiction (substance abuse).
- Boosting the immune system. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce cortisol, therefore reducing the stress response and the toll it can take on your body.
Read more about the health benefits of mindfulness.
5. Can you recommend any mindfulness apps?
There are many great apps on the market, some offering free starter sessions before you decide to buy. Everyone’s different, so it’s really about trial and error to see what’s right for you. We know it can be a minefield, so here are five apps recommended by our psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell.
On the go
Stop breathe think
6. I don’t always feel like I’m in tune with my emotions, or those of others. Can mindfulness help me?
Being able to identify and manage your own emotions, as well as appreciate other people’s emotions is called emotional intelligence. This can help you to see things objectively and to respect others’ views. Emotional intelligence comes when you identify an emotion when it happens and are able to feel it (an emotion), and put a name to it, for example angry, jealousy or love, and then
express it to others. Mindfulness is a technique that can help you become more in tune and aware of your emotions.
This can help when you feel threatened or when you have a disagreement with someone. Our interpersonal skills also help us connect emotionally with others, developing closer relationships and a shared understanding.
7. I try to practice mindfulness but I have tinnitus and I cannot get away from the noise that is in my ears 24/7. The house is quiet, I am sitting comfortably and the noises in my ears are magnified and driving me mad! Any suggestions to help? I'd really appreciate anything that could help. You'll be helping my daughter as she suffers this too and she has exams at Uni coming up.
8. MeTime makes me feel guilty, like I'm being selfish by not choosing to spend time with my kids. How do I overcome this? #Qeugene"
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Treatments and therapies
Find out some of the health benefits of mindfulness and meditation.
Raisin meditation mindfulness exercise
Raisin meditation is a mindfulness exercise that requires you to focus your mind on the present moment using all your senses – find out more information here.