What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and is the ability to focus your attention on your awareness within the present moment and not be distracted by your thoughts, but instead merely acknowledge and accept them. Although mindfulness originates from a Buddhist psychology, the mindfulness classes delivered by me are from a secular perspective.
In a nutshell, you become an observer of what goes on within you and what goes on outside of you.
What exactly is the aim of mindfulness?
The aim of mindfulness (practice) is to help you develop self-awareness; this, in turn, helps you to gain a more accurate view of situations that may currently trigger negative or difficult emotions.
Mindfulness is very much about training your brain to overcome things such as worry, fear, overthinking, negative reactions towards situations or other people. In doing so, you no longer compromise the harmony or inner-balance within yourself or others.
Another way of putting it is: less stress, lower blood pressure, better personal and working relationships, more happiness and inner peace. Sound like something you’re after?
What is mindfulness practice?
There are two types of mindfulness practice;
- The formal practice of mindfulness. This is a 3-part structured meditation practice that supports you to improve your ability to focus your attention on the moment, whether this be your breath, body, taste, sound, sensation, or so on, and not be distracted by your thoughts.
- The informal practice of mindfulness. This is the use and practice of mindfulness (paying attention to the moment) within your everyday life. Let’s be honest; this is what we are all generally after, being able to manage our thoughts, reactions, and situations in everyday life more positively!
You’ll have things within your current life that you want less of; this may be less stress, less upset, less worry, less sleepless nights, less reliance on substances and so on. There will also be things that you will probably like more of; this might be more energy, better health, better relationships, more contentment, and so on.
Both practices are required for what you’re hoping to achieve more or less of; the two mindfulness practices are not absent of the other.
Is it all about just sitting there and doing nothing?
Mindfulness isn’t just about sitting still and doing nothing; I’m not sure I’d personally cope myself! The terms mindfulness and meditation can sometimes be misleading. But to put it simply, mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, at any time, doing anything. Some informal practices could include being mindful while you walk, drive, clean your teeth, cook, participate in exercise classes, or chat with a friend. Remember the aim of mindfulness is to help you be more present, less stressed, and feel more enjoyment within your life.
Is mindfulness meditation for me, it sounds a tad woo woo?
Mindfulness is more in the public eye now than it ever has been before, thanks to Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre.
Mindfulness has also made its way into the NHS, and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) for those who have had several episodes of clinical depression.
Scientists and researchers have created a multitude of evidence backing up the benefits of practicing mindfulness for physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Not so woo woo after all!
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Research has discovered too many benefits from practicing mindfulness techniques for me to actually list, so I’ll just give you a brief overview to help!
- Reduced rumination
- Increased calmness
- Better clarity and awareness
- Increased focus and less thought distraction
- Relationship satisfaction
- Less emotional reactivity
- Increased contentment/inner peace
- Better quality of life
- Stress reduction
- Lower blood pressure
- Pain management
- Improved sleep
- Improved immune system
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Improved Memory
- Reduced psychological distress
- Decreased substance abuse
- Anxiety disorder management
I’ve tried mindfulness before and had trouble getting started?
I can assure you; you’re not on your own, other people too have found it difficult to establish a mindfulness practice in the past. When explored further, it has been for some of the following reasons;
- Lack of clear goals or direction (What are you aiming for? Why? And what exactly does it look like once you’ve achieved your aim?!)
- Not using effective meditation techniques (It’s a bit like footwear; you have different shoes for different seasons, different meditations are used to achieve different outcomes e.g. relaxation, focus, or awareness!)
- Lack of support and accountability from people around you (Mindfulness on your own is great as it’s an important part of your practice, but practicing with others helps you stay committed and enables you to gain support when difficulty is experienced.)
How much time do I need each week to practise mindfulness?
At the very least, put aside 10 minutes each day, every day, for your formal mindfulness practice. Anything after this is a bonus that keeps you heading in the right direction. Sound feasible?
What should I wear to the classes?
The answer: just wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. All I’d suggest is to make sure you wear layers, so that if you get too hot or cold you adjust yourself accordingly! You may also like to bring a blanket with you.
Do we sit in chairs?
Yes, no laying down or sleeping!
Why do you charge for your classes? Some organisations offer mindfulness or meditation for free or on a donation basis.
You’re quite right they do!
Most organisations that offer mindfulness or meditation for free or on a donation basis are locally or nationally funded, or are either religious or follow Buddhist psychology.
One shoe size does not fit all. Buddhist and religious based classes are wonderful; I’ve taken part in many myself. However, not everyone wants this. In addition, FREE mindfulness classes can’t always offer a personalised service to help you build your individual mindfulness practice and are offered for a limited time.
A more personalised service is something my classes are able to offer. In addition, incorporated within my mindfulness classes is the opportunity to join a private online group. The group provides daily help and support to help you maintain your practice and get over any bumps in the road, should you require it.
However, the choice of what type of class or teaching works for you is entirely up to you :)
How do I get the most from the course?
Another good question!
A bit like keeping fit, mindfulness requires commitment, practice, and the patience to work.
To help you on your way I recommend the following:
- Attend all classes
- Practise mindfulness for at least 10 minutes every day (and longer if you can and are willing!)
- Read any literature provided and carry out mindfulness exercises suggested
- Join the private online group
My class sizes are intentionally small as they are designed to encourage interactive learning, which is tad hard to do when there are a lot of people in a room! As a result, places are limited.
Check out the YES Events Calendar link below, to find out when the next 'Un-scattered Mind' practical mindfulness classes are running!