By Mark Barnett
Mindfulness has origins in spiritual practice but you don’t have to be religious to be mindful. It is a practical tool that can be used at anytime, anywhere, by anyone and is the ability to be fully present and aware of where we are, what we are doing and noticing what is going on around us without judgement.
Mindfulness is something we have all done at some time in our life. It happens when we have been engrossed in an activity that has absorbed us such as watching a good film, reading a good book, having a good conversation or eating a good meal. It is when we notice all the aspects, sensations and nuances going on within us and around us. Mindfulness doesn’t require us to change who we are but just to develop a regular practice of noticing our breath and/or the feelings in or around our bodies for a meaningful amount of time. A few minutes at first and then increasing the time while in a relaxed but alert state of mind whether that is standing, sitting or lying down, although the latter can lead to sleep which is not the idea.
Evidence and experience has shown that as your practice develops you may become more
feel calmer and less stressed
better able to respond to situations rather than react,
better able to cope with difficult thoughts and feelings
be kinder to yourself
Uncomfortable thoughts, ideas and feelings of sleepiness may arise and these are natural and part of the practice but with time and effort you will be able to bring your attention back to your breath and body each time your mind wanders.
Mindfulness is non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical although it can be used in a clinical setting. Studies have shown that practicing Mindfulness can help to manage mild to moderate depression, some anxiety and feelings of stress. Research into whether Mindfulness helps more complex mental health problems, such as psychosis and bipolar disorder are still ongoing but it may just work for you. “I was a psychiatric social worker” says Patrick Clifford, now a Wellbeing Meditation tutor at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Recovery College, “and there was lots and lots of evidence that it worked for people”.
Practicing since 2008, Patrick, as an experienced practitioner, spells out what he feels the benefits are: “Being mindful of what’s happening in your life all the time makes you aware of how precious life is because quite often we go around thinking about the past, thinking about the future and never really concentrating on what is happening at this moment and it’s really important that you concentrate on what’s happening at this moment because you are missing so much if you don’t”.
Please find below further information to help you on your Mindfulness journey:
Mindfulness for Dummies by Shamash Alidina
Mindfulness a practical guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams & Danny Penman
Insight Timer (free)
The Mindful Way to Wellbeing at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust Recovery College, tel: 020 3228 3643, www.slamrecoverycollege.co.uk (for those in any way affiliated to South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust)