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What exactly is mindfulness?

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

When did you last stop and notice what was going on around you and inside you? Life can be so full of distractions that it’s easy to charge through each day in a bit of a blur. Our minds are amazing things but they can often run away with us, going into overdrive with thoughts and information.

At any one time we might be talking to friends, scrolling social media, cooking ourselves some dinner and thinking about what we have planned for the next day- we are a generation of multi taskers and it’s rare that we really focus in on one task and really give it all of our attention.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre says, "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,"

So what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is when we take some time to focus on the present moment. When we really notice what our bodies are feeling and pay close attention to the things that are happening around us, however small.

It also helps us to break our thought patterns and identify which of our thoughts are helpful and which aren’t helpful and might be keeping us stuck.

Being mindful can also help us be much more aware of when we are feeling okay or not so okay, it helps us get back in touch with our bodies and start to notice more how our bodies are doing each day and what makes us feel good or not good.

So what are some mindfulness activities and how do you do mindfulness? Below are a couple of mindful exercises that you can practice right now!

1. Take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, get comfy and notice how fast or slow your breath is coming, is it deep? Shallow? Smooth? Ragged? Is it easy to take a breath or does it feel hard work? Are you breathing deep within your belly or is it your chest that is moving? Don’t try and change anything. Just notice it.

2. Next check in with your body. Starting with the tips of your toes focus all of your attention on each tiny body part. How do your toes feel? Do you know? Are they hot or cold? Do they tingle when you put your attention on then? Do you feel any sensations? Perhaps you don’t feel anything? Notice it all! Then what about the bottoms of your feet? And your heels? What do you notice about how they feel? Work your way up your entire body like this and notice every tiny thing that you might be feeling.

3. Next focus on your mind. Is it quiet and still or is it buzzing with thoughts? Can you notice how your thoughts come and go? Is it easy to try and step away from them and simply observe them or do you find yourself quickly drawn back in? Do your thoughts follow a pattern? Just watch for a little while and notice how your mind is working. Is there an image or a pattern that could describe it?

4. Move your attention outside of your body to your immediate environment. What can you hear? What is the temperature like? What can you smell? How does the place you are in make you feel? Can you notice the different things going on very close by to you and then further away? What tiny sounds or movements are you aware of? Do you feel comfortable where you are right now?