|Posted on 16 January, 2020 at 22:15|
Written by Kathleen McEvoy (January 2020) Mindfulness-based practices can be thought of as the melding of eastern and western philosophies into a scientifically proven method to improve our mental health and enhance our overall wellbeing. In fact, mindfulness-based practices are thought to rewire our brain to become calmer and less reactive to the stressors in our environment. Some research even suggests that regular mindfulness practice strengthens the part of our brain responsible for things like planning, problem solving, goal setting, relationship skills, and mood regulation. At its core, mindfulness techniques are about accessing your awareness and leveraging this part of you to accept your current experience. You can think of your awareness as the part of you that notices what you think, feel, touch, taste, hear and smell. It is the part of you that is aware of what you are thinking right now as you are reading this article. It is the part of you that is aware of how you are sitting or standing; whether you are hungry, full, or somewhere in between; interested, or bored; the taste of coffee in your mouth; and the smallest sound you can hear right now. You might like to think of your awareness as the sky. It is the part of you that is always present and unchanging. And while your awareness is like the sky, your thoughts and feelings are like the weather- changing moment to moment, and day to day. Its comforting to know that regardless of the weather, the sky is always and will always be there- just like your awareness. While the goal of mindfulness is acceptance of symptoms, unpleasant symptoms often decrease as a result of regular practice. You may ask yourself why on earth you would want to accept your symptoms? Well, once you can accept your experience, you can redirect your energies and take effective action towards creating a rich, full, and meaningful life. Consider the time, energy and effort you have spent battling with your symptoms, trying to force them away?.Now imagine if you were able to use all of that time, effort, and energy that energy into creating the life you wanted?. What might you be able to achieve? Here are some ways you can start to practice mindful awareness. Remember the goal is not to change, but to accept your experience so you can stop the struggle and redirect your energies into creating the life you want. 1. Using mindful awareness to observe your morning routine: Tomorrow morning try paying particularly close attention to each action you take to get ready for the day. a. Upon waking, you might focus your awareness on the sensation of your sheets, on your feet, or on the temperature of your bed. See if you can notice areas of your skin that feel warmer or cooler. b. While brushing your teeth, notice the colour and texture of your toothpaste, notice the smells in your nose, and the tastes in your mouth, see if you can notice the first part of your mouth where you experience the taste of the toothpaste and how the taste floods your mouth or changes as you continue to brush. See if you can notice how your toothbrush feels, the sensation of the bristles on your gums, and the pressure of the brush on your teeth. For extra points try brushing with your opposite hand for a few days- this is a sure way to focus your awareness. If you choose to try this, pay particular attention to the uncomfortable sensations, or thoughts you might have, and see if you an continue to brush with your opposite hand regardless of what your mind may be telling you about the experience (maybe "this is a waste of time"), or the mild discomfort (frustration) in your body. 2. Using mindful awareness to observe your thoughts: Practice noticing what your mind is telling you. See if you can identify your minds favourite thoughts- these are the ones that tend to play in the background throughout our day- like a song stuck on repeat. Often with anxiety, these thoughts will be related to things that may happen I the future; for example, "What if my spouse leaves me? What if I get sick? Or what if I lose my job? When you notice one of your minds favourite thoughts say to yourself "I'm having a thought that (whatever the thought is), or trying to thank you mind by saying "thank you mind for trying to help me". Then refocus your awareness on whatever you are doing at that moment. 3. Using mindful awareness to describe feeling or sensations: Practice observing and describing the sensations in your body as if you were a curious scientist who has never experienced that sensation before. Where is the sensation in your body? How would you describe the sensation; aching, stinging, tight, fluttery? Does it move or stay in the same place? If it had a temperature what would it be? What about weight; would it be light, heavy, or somewhere in between? What colour might you assign it? If you would like to give mindfulness a try in a structured class why don't you register for our weekly Mindfulness Class by clicking here. Places are limited so Register now!