What is Mindfulness?
Practising mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness can increase your ability to manage difficult situations, make wise choices, feel more calm and help free space in your mind so your creativity can flourish.
Mindfulness skills are now being used in workplaces, schools and the NHS, with Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy recommended in the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines for treating recurrent depression.
Mindfulness is rooted in Eastern spirituality – it is a way to connect back to your self and to have more patience and compassion. Mindfulness helps cultivate an attitude of ‘gentle allowing’ with your self, rather than indulging in self criticism and negativity.
Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
Professor Williams says that mindfulness can be an antidote to the “tunnel vision” that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.
“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.
“Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. 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.”
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