How to practice Mindfulness: a bite sized guide
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has its roots in meditation. It involves taking some time out of your day and training your mind to be focused on the present moment. It is not something that you can pick up overnight but is something will improve with regular practice. You don't need any special equipment but it may be easier at first to try mindfulness exercises somewhere that you will not be disturbed. This doesn't mean that it needs to be somewhere quiet, you could use outside on your lunch break or even on your commute to work. There are lots of different approaches and exercises in mindfulness so if you don’t get on with one type there are lots of variations available.
What are the benefits?
A study done by the Oxford Centre for Mindfulness showed that people taking part in regular mindfulness had significantly lower rates of depression, anxiety & reported stress. Another study by the University of Surrey showed a decreased in rumination (worrying about the same things over and over), reductions in fatigue levels and an improvement in sleep quality. Mindfulness is also recommended by NICE as a treatment to prevent a recurrence of depression in people who have suffered from depression over three times in their life.
How do I do it?
Here are a few couple of small exercises you can build into your day to practice being more mindful. For all of these leave your phone behind for five minutes or switch to airplane mode for 5-10 minutes.
- Mindful tea or coffee: Take a note of the different sight, smells, taste and textures of your drink. Notice how the cup feels, look at the steam coming off it, notice how hot it feels & what is is like in your mouth. What does it taste like?
- Mindful moving: On your break go for a walk. Have a look around at the weather. How does the fresh air feel against your cheeks? What is the texture of the surface you are walking on? What are the different sights and sounds around you?
Walking and giving all your senses the chance to notice the things around you can centre your mind.
Don’t forget that mindfulness is like any new skill, it takes practice and time to improve. Remember the following pointers:
- It is perfectly normal for your mind to wander. Note the thoughts and redirect your attention back to where it was. Think of your thoughts as like buses passing by a bus stop.
- When you notice emotions (anger, anxiety, stress) or physical sensations (neck pain, tension) try to note them with detachment. Look at them non-judgmentally and with a friendly curiosity.
- Compassion – treat yourself with compassion, patience and understanding.
Finding a balance with your thoughts and emotions is one of the keys to mindful practice.
If you are interested apps, Calm or Headspace have great guided resources for mindfulness. May people find mindfulness colouring books helpful. If you enjoy physical exercise yoga will also include mindful practice.
If you are struggling to cope with stress or anxiety, it can help to speak to a doctor. We offer same day appointments and easy online booking.
Written by Dr Ciara Yeates, General Practitioner at London Doctors Clinic, 2019