What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to things we normally would not even notice, and becoming aware of our present moment experience as it arises non-judgmentally, and with kindness and compassion. When we practice mindfulness, we pay attention to what is happening in our mind and our body; to our thoughts – the stories we tell ourselves – as well as to emotions and physical sensations as they are arising.”
(The little pocket book of mindfulness, Anna Black)
Who can practice mindfulness?
Anyone! Whether you’re 2 or 102 you can introduce mindfulness into your everyday life to help deal with feelings of anxiety, being overwhelmed, depression, stress, pain, and everyday life in general! The thing about mindfulness is that you can personalise it, there are guidelines, but ultimately everyone is different – somethings will work for you and some wont. I think one of the most helpful things to remember when practising mindfulness is that there are no wrong emotions, it’s important to feel all the emotions and thoughts that go through your mind and just allow them to be there, notice them non-judgmentally, and then bring yourself back to focusing on your breathing. It’s extremely helpful in dialling down our stress responses and moving us out of our threat system and into our soothing system.
Where do you practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be practised anywhere! It’s something that you do internally so you can take it with you throughout your day. I personally like to practice mindfulness when I’m on my daily walk, I’ve found that I’m using mindfulness in everyday tasks and situations making me a much calmer more composed person. My favourite place to practise mindfulness is surrounded by nature, I find that it really helps to ground me and clear my head. It’s a break from constantly worrying about every little thing and I’ve found that my mental health has improved to being in the best place I’ve ever been mentally. I still have depression and anxiety, but I’m better prepared to deal with them when they arise. You can also get cd’s and podcasts with spoken mindful meditations and there are loads of books out there about mindfulness.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness, as I’ve said previously, can be personalised, so you can practice mindfulness in a way that suits you best. You can sit down (make sure your feet are touching the floor and you’re comfortable) , you can lie down, you can be standing up, you can be walking. You can use guided meditations in the form of podcasts, cd’s or classes, or you can use books, or you can simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing, notice how your chest rises and falls, notice how your stomach moves in and out, notice the breath coming in through your nose, the temperature of the air as it comes in and out, you will have thoughts popping up and you may find your mind wandering, but simply notice that your mind has wandered, don’t judge yourself, and refocus on your breathing,.
Why practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness isn’t a quick fix, they say practice mindfulness because it’s something you have to practice. Every day. Mindfulness is being researched more and more and becoming more popular within therapy, and even in schools – preparing children from a young age to better deal with stress and mental health issues (It was even on Look North News the other evening!).
“Mindfulness has been shown to be effective for people living with persistent pain, cancer, heart disease and many other long term health conditions. Research has shown it helps people to cope with depression and worry more effectively.”
– Newcastle Pain Management
“When we experience pain we are programmed to do something about it or avoid making it worse because the never signals danger and it can be very unpleasant. So it is understandable that our minds treat chronic or persistent pain in the same way as acute pain. Our minds attempt to get rid of this pain but unfortunately but its very nature persistent pain remains. Our minds find coping strategies that dull our pain such as distraction, over-resting, over-doing, or drinking alcohol; however these strategies are only of benefit in the short term and then the pain returns. Attempts to battle it or bargain with persistent pain often lead to frustration, feeling drained, depression and a worsening pain experience.”
-Newcastle Pain Management
“Typically most people with persistent pain want to forget about it, escape it, fight it, ignore it, or get rid of it somehow/ However these strategies of getting away from or avoiding pain only work at best for the short term and in the long term leave people struggling. Resistance to the certainty of pain leads to stress and suffering. Mindfulness encourages the opposite avoidance which is to approach pain, be willing to have it and not judging it as good or bad. This is the paradox, doing that opposite to what our minds tell us (avoiding persistent pain). Research and our clinical experience have shown that when people move willingly towards their pain with an open, non-judgemental mind they are much more able to live with their pain.”
– Newcastle Pain Management
I’ll leave some examples of sources I’ve used to help aid my mindfulness journey, but please do not take this as something I’m expecting you to go out and buy, use or take as gospel. As I’ve said everyone is different and certain things may not work for you and that’s completely fine, you need to do whatever is best for you.
Books that I’ve used:
Mindfulness for health a practical guide to relieving pain, reducing stress, and restoring wellbeing, (with free cd of mindful meditations) Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman, 2013
The little book of mindfulness, Anna Black, 2015
A mindfulness guide for the frazzled, Ruby Wax, 2016
Cd’s I’ve used:
cd’s from Newcastle Pain Management
(If you would like to borrow the cd’s please let me know and we can arrange that)
Podcasts/apps I’ve used:
Mindfulness in 8 weeks
Newcastle Pain Management lists some further information as:
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World (with free CD) by Mark Williams
Local meditation courses and places to practice:
Compassion Centre, South Gosforth
Buddhist Centre, Newcastle