As humans we very rarely live in the here and now. Our thoughts are either dwelling on the past and things that have already occured or we are worried about the future and how we will cope. As a result we are unable to enjoy right now and be in touch with the present, in fact 86% of people felt that they would be much happier if they knew how to slow down and live in and enjoy the present (Mental Health Foundation 2010). Mindfulness is a practice that can help people to achieve this.
Mindfulness is a practice that is based on meditation techniques and it has been shown to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment, as opposed to the past which can cause depression and the future which can cause anxiety and worry. By focusing on the present moment you are being aware of your experiences and feelings at the present time so for example what you are seeing and hearing and you are concerning yourself with events unfolding in the present. Training your mind to work in this way can ultimately result in you controlling your thoughts better thus learning that they are only thoughts and that currently you need not be concerned with them.
Why not try this exercise, it can be found in ‘Mindfulness: A Practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’ (Mark Williams & Danny Penman). it is one that I regularly do in my practice and clients with anxiety, worry and depressive thoughts have found it useful.
1) Make sure you are in a comfortable place and if you are sat down try and sit upright. Try and do this exercise with your eyes closed.
2) Close your eyes and inhale deeply, holding this for about 5 seconds. Then exhale pushing all the air out again allowing this to last for about 5 seconds.
3) Continue this cycle of breathing so inhaling deeply and exhaling.
4) Try to really focus on this so where you experience sensations and feelings in your body when you inhale and what it sounds like when you breathe in. Focus on where you feel sensations in your body when you exhale and again what this sounds like.
5) As you progress with this you will notice that your thoughts start to drift, you may start to think about what you did not finish at work yesterday or what you want to have for tea tonight. This is ok and normal, but when you notice this happening bring your attention back to the present and your breathing. You may find you need to do this a few times or maybe even more but that’s ok because recognising you have drifted off is being mindful.
Try this as part of a daily routine because the more you practice it the better you will become at being mindful. You will even notice that it does help you to control your thoughts better and increase your focus and attention.