Life can be hectic, especially during busy times or times of uncertainty. All of us have things that occupy our time and headspace, and at times it can feel overwhelming. Several studies have proven that mindfulness can help you to reduce stress and help prevent depression and anxiety. It allows you to focus on the now and become more in tune with yourself. This might all seem a bit woolly, but there are some real benefits. Let’s take a look at some of them...
What is mindfulness?
On the surface, mindfulness is a fairly simple concept, yet a difficult one to describe. It's the act of being fully aware of yourself, your thoughts, your body, and your surroundings.
With the busyness of day to day life, it’s rare that we get time to really think about the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. Practising mindfulness is exactly this – pausing for a moment to have awareness of the present moment.
Again, the temptation might be to dismiss this idea as a bit 'out there' and go back to scrolling through social media. However, there are some tangible benefits of mindfulness.
Why can practising mindfulness help?
Life can be really busy - there's coursework, exams, homework to complete - and at the same time, you want to be out having fun with your friends. It can feel like you're being pulled in different directions and this can be stressful. Mindfulness can help you to tackle this stress in a number of ways:
- A study by Cambridge University found practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress during exam times.
- Mindfulness can help prevent depression and anxiety. NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommends it to people who have had 3 or more bouts of depression.
- Multiple studies have found that mindfulness can improve your attention and productivity.
- Studies have also suggested mindfulness can improve your brain and immune function, helping to stop you get ill.
When you’re working hard, things can sometimes feel a little frantic. Mindfulness can have some pretty awesome benefits if you do it regularly, so it’s a useful skill to learn. Here's the basics...
Mindfulness: the basics
So, how exactly do you practice mindfulness? There are quite a few exercises and techniques you can do, many of which involve focusing your thoughts and sitting (or lying) quietly.
Because there are so many methods you can use, we’ve chosen one of the most popular ones to outline. It’s a simple mindful breathing exercise that you can practice just about anywhere and takes just 15 minutes:
- Find a comfortable and relaxing position to sit. Choose somewhere you won’t be disturbed (and won’t immediately fall asleep).
- Notice your body and try and relax it. Think about how it feels; the shape and weight of it sat in the comfortable spot. Notice any sensations you feel. Let yourself relax.
- Think about your breathing. Your breath with naturally flow in and out, so pay attention to how this feels. Where can you feel it? What does it feel like?
- As you sit and focus on your breathing, you’ll probably find that your mind starts to wander. This is fine and totally natural. When you notice thoughts cropping up, acknowledge that your mind has wandered. Redirect your attention back to your breath.
- Stay like this for five to seven minutes, focusing on your breathing and steering your attention back to it. After a few minutes, pay attention once again to how your body feels. Let yourself relax even more and notice the sensations you experience.
That’s all there is to it. Although it sounds simple, it’s a great way of getting in tune with your body and mind.
To help you on your way to practising mindfulness, we’ve pulled together some resources that can help you learn and understand more about the topic: