In collaboration with Dr Camilla Rosan
Mindfulness has become really popular over the last few years, but it’s actually a very ancient tradition. Mindfulness practice stems from the Buddhist tradition, and is a type of meditation. But you don’t have to be spiritual, or have any particular beliefs, to try it.
It can be defined as: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994)
Mindfulness is the process of focusing in on what is happening in your mind and body moment by moment, and not being caught up in thoughts, images worries and pressures. Mindfulness practice is about helping you to become more aware of physical sensations, thoughts, images and feelings. Key aspects of mindfulness include:
- Approaching things with a freshness of mind
- Being in the moment
- Noticing when our mind is wandering and bringing it back to the present.
- Getting in touch with bodily feelings and emotions.
- Kindness and compassion to the self.
- Focusing on something without judgement.
- Noticing and accepting our thoughts, feelings or sensations.
Mindfulness can help people to find peace and contentment when they are troubled. However, it is a common misconception that mindfulness exercises are done to relax and ‘switch off’. Actually they should be about being present and focused on our current state.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve both emotional and physical health. Practicing mindfulness has not only been found to benefit wellbeing but it has also been found to have a positive impact on pregnancy stress, managing pain in labour, later parenting and early child development – so it is a useful skill to learn and practice early!
We have developed a meditation programme which is designed around your reproductive cycle, and grounded in mindfulness techniques. These meditations are just ten minutes long. You may find that meditating in the morning means it’s easier to fit into your daily routine. Once the afternoon comes along and it gets hectic, any number of things can come along and bump it off the to-do list. It’s also a great way to start your day. But some people also prefer to meditate before bed. It’s really about figuring out what works for you.
You can also bring mindfulness techniques into your everyday life. Mindfulness can help us focus more and be calm and productive. Here are some ideas:
- Mindful eating. A lot of us eat on the go, or eat while doing something else – whether that’s working at your desk or watching the television. The next time you’re eating, try doing it mindfully. This involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat. Mindful eating can help us better appreciate our food, and feel fuller quicker!
- Active listening – We’d all like to think we’re good listeners, but there’s a huge difference between nodding as you wait for your turn to talk and actually being present and mindful of what others are saying. Often people find that their mind wanders or other thoughts pop into their mind that distract them from fully listening. As well as helping you live more mindfully, active listening can improve your communication and personal relationships.
- Mindful walking or running: The next time you are walking or running, instead of looking at your phone or listening to that podcast notice the feeling of your body moving and the environment around you – this might include sights, sounds and smells.
- Mindful moments:
- As soon as you wake up in the morning, rather than jumping out of bed, pause long enough for 3 whole breaths.
- Take the time to sit and have your first drink in the morning – whether that’s tea, coffee, juice or water. Be aware of the smell, the taste, the temperature and everything else. Appreciate the moment and notice when the mind has wandered.
- On your commute to work, make the beginning and end of every journey another mindful moment and be present for 3 breathes.
- Take a moment before going to bed to appreciate something good which has happened in the day.