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Mindfulness is a word we are hearing more and more frequently, but what does it actually mean and is it something that might benefit us all?
Before you dismiss it as 'new age' nonsense, have a read on and discover that mindfulness might offer more than you give it credit for.
Firstly, what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully aware of where we are and what we are doing in the present moment.
Think about the last quiet moment you had to yourself; it may just have been in the shower or on your way to work. Chances are you were thinking of all you have to do today or about something that happened last night.
Being mindful is trying to be fully present in the moment.
You may have thoughts that come and go, and this is completely normal, but being truly mindful is being able to tune out these distractions and concentrate fully on the here and now.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness is good for the body: One study found that after only eight weeks of training, practising mindfulness boosts our immune system's ability to fight off illness. Practising mindfulness has also been shown to improve sleep quality.
Mindfulness is good for the mind: Several studies have found that mindfulness increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions, such as stress.
Mindfulness is good for the brain: Research has found that it can improve brain function in regions linked to learning, memory, emotion regulation, and empathy.
Mindfulness helps us focus: Studies suggest that mindfulness helps us improve our memory, attention span and ability to make decisions.
Mindfulness affects the way we see ourselves: More mindful people frequently have a healthier body image, higher self-esteem and react better to criticism.
Mindfulness improves relationships: Research suggests mindfulness training makes couples feel closer, more positive and secure in their relationship. Additionally, couples who practice mindfulness may also recover more quickly from conflict.
Mindfulness helps fight obesity: Practicing “mindful eating” can aid weight loss by promoting healthier eating habits including helping us to savour our food and think more about the food we consume.
How can you be more mindful?
Next time you feel your thoughts racing try to pause and
Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
Notice what you’re sensing in that given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without you noticing. Recognise that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the warmth of the shower water on your skin to the feel of your foot hitting the treadmill.
Focus on your breathing and the simple rhythmic in and out sensation of the breath.
Find mini moments of mindfulness throughout the day to reset your focus and sense of purpose.
Start today by adding in small moments of mindfulness, and you'll soon see the benefits to both your mental and physical health.
Do you practise mindfulness? Let us know your top tips in the comments below.
By Luisa McLoughlin