Mindfulness is a practice derived from Eastern Philosophy that has recently attracted interest from clinical and research psychologists. It involves meditation and attention focusing strategies that can be very helpful in controlling symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Two ways to develop the practice are Meditation and Daily Mindfulness:
Meditating in any comfortable position is ok. It is not necessary to sit cross-legged on the floor. Just 10 to 15 minutes each day is good but if you find that difficult, start out at 5 minutes and work upwards from there. Here are the steps:
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
- Observe the breath without attempting to control it.
- It may be easier to focus your concentration if you say a particular word to yourself each time you breathe out such as peace, calm or relax. Whatever word you use your mind will almost certainly wander. That’s ok. It’s what we expect.
- Once you realise you have been distracted by thoughts, memories, images etc, simply notice that (without judging yourself as not doing well enough) and gently bring your mind back to focus on your breathing.
- Just keep repeating the above process until the end of your meditation session.
The practice of catching yourself when your mind wanders (without judging) and bringing it back to focus on the breath is therapeutic. Slowly, you can develop the skill of re-focusing your concentration away from troublesome negative thoughts or images that may occur under stress.
Much of the time we operate on “automatic pilot”. Many of us have had the experience of walking or driving to a familiar destination only to arrive and realise we have no recollection of the route or of any events along the way. When you are in this “automatic pilot” mode, there is the chance that you may drift, unwittingly, into unhelpful patterns of thought and find yourself feeling anxious or depressed.
Daily mindfulness strategies can help. Awareness is the key and you can develop your awareness by simply noticing when you are on “automatic pilot” and re-focusing your attention by trying out these simple mindfulness exercises. Try and absorb yourself fully in the experience of each:
- When you first wake up, focus on 5 deep breaths before getting up.
- While walking, focus on the sensations in the soles of your feet or the wind on your face.
- In the shower, really notice how the water droplets feel as they touch the skin.
- Notice the gentle sensations of pressure on your body as you are supported in your chair.
- Focus attention on your routine daily activities: Doing up your shoelaces, eating, brushing your teeth, tidying up etc. If your mind wanders away from such activities, try instead to immerse yourself, if only briefly, in the experience of each.
Such brief mindfulness exercises practiced throughout the day can really help.
Words of Wisdom
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky
Conscious breathing is my anchor
(Tich Nhat Hanh)
The present moment is the agent of healing
Consider living in that sort of way
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