Today, we are all living in times of constant change. The amount of communication and information we receive daily makes the pace of change seem to be rapidly accelerating. Many of us find ourselves overloaded, having to hold many different things in our minds at once, making us feel as if we are regularly functioning on autopilot.
How often have we set off in the car, arrived at our destination, only to realise we can’t remember anything about the journey? How many of us walk into a room to do something, only to forget what it was we wanted to do? Our attention is so often hijacked by thoughts about the past, worries about the future or on our own mental chatter.
Mindfulness is a way of being which focuses on the present moment, helping us develop greater awareness of what’s going on in our mind and body. It is not something new or mystical. In fact it could be said that it is something that has been lost in recent generations as the speed of life and amount of information we process has increased. In today's busy, multi-tasking world, few of us naturally achieve Mindfulness, but it can be learned, with practice.
Becoming aware of what’s around us, here and now, is the exact opposite to what we do usually in our busy lives; going through endless tasks, thinking about what we did or didn’t do, worrying about what is still to be done. Mindfulness is a way of escaping from our thoughts about the past and future, to concentrate, body and mind on paying attention to the present moment.
Using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga, it helps us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, so that instead of feeling overwhelmed by them, we’re better able to manage them. One way is to notice what we feel in the body, the feeling of the breath going in and out of our body, as opposed to what’s going on in our head.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, known for his work as a scientist, writer and Mindfulness meditation teacher, says that Mindfulness is a way to live your life, “… as if it really mattered, which involves being in the present moment with an open-hearted presence and kindness towards yourself.”
Kabat-Zinn believes that we often drive ourselves crazy about things in life which are really not that important, being “…. driven by the urgent, missing the important; ending up a lot of the time being unhappy. Then we find ourselves looking elsewhere for the solution”.
However, the solution, he believes can be found within ourselves – through paying Mindful attention to the present moment. Being engaged and fully ‘present’ in our life - aware that every moment is our life - can lead to a richer experience of the things that might otherwise pass us by whilst we’re wrapped up in other thoughts (the past, what we are doing next, what will happen in the future).
A number of different scientific studies have shown that Mindfulness directly increases levels of positive emotion. The brains of people who have been practicing Mindfulness, regularly show patterns of activation in the areas of the brain associated with feeling good, and reduced activation in areas associated with stress and anxiety.
Try keeping a Mindful eye on how much time you usually spend living outside the present moment. You may be in for a surprise! Mindful awareness practice is both pleasurable and calming. It helps us get in tune with our feelings, stops us dwelling on the past, worrying about the future and enables us to get the most out of every moment of the day.
Where to start? Try these: 9 Mindfulness Rituals to Make Your Day Better