This is a guest article is by one of our qualified Harmonizing Coaches, Jen Wood. Jen is also a Wellbeing Consultant and Cognitive Behavioural Therapist.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
The speed of modern life and the pressure to do, be and get more can become overwhelming. Our world is so full of stimuli and we cope and survive by becoming reactive. I discovered mindfulness as a way to get some breathing space and an opportunity to slow down, become more grounded and start to thrive.
I love the quote on the previous page, as it beautifully articulates what mindfulness gave me. Learning to connect with my breath and the ground beneath my feet, rather than the constant striving to please others and get through the infinite ‘to do’ list, was my path to growth and freedom.
Mindfulness offers us a wonderful toolbox of techniques for developing a more peaceful, accepting and compassionate life. I appreciate the way that it combines ancient wisdom with modern science. It is no anodyne means of suppressing our true feelings or creating fabricated bliss, but instead mindfulness offers us a map to navigate feeling our feelings and an invitation to own them and eventually experience them as a gift.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme, defines Mindfulness as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”
It’s such a succinct description of the practice of developing conscious awareness, moment by moment, of our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and our environment. We not only become aware of these things, but we learn to gracefully accept what we find. For my clients this can at first seem impossible, but it can be transformational.
We begin to observe our thoughts with an attitude of curiosity and kindness, rather that being swept away with them. We learn that we are not our thoughts, and that when we over identify with them we can run into difficulty.
There are two ways to practise mindfulness. First is the more formal practice of meditation, which can be extremely helpful. The other way is to introduce mindfulness into daily life. You can do anything mindfully. Both in combination are particularly beneficial.
5 ways to Integrate Mindfulness into your Daily Routine
- Breathe – Firstly, bring the awareness broadly to the experience of the present moment, without feeling the need to change it. Then, narrow the focus of attention to the breath. Finally, widen out your focus to the body as a whole, including any physical sensations that are present.
- Slow down – The pace of life can be frantic, and physically slowing down can help us to mentally slow down. Turn off all screens and spend some luxurious time relaxing and talking with your loved ones and friends. Take off your shoes and socks and feel the sensation of the ground under your feet. Do one thing at a time!
- Eat mindfully – Mindful eating is a helpful way to reclaim the joy of cooking and eating. We can eat on autopilot, and cooking and eating mindfully can transform our relationship with food as well as aiding digestion and weight loss. Sit at table with no distractions, engage all your senses and slowly taste and savour your food.
- Listen mindfully – Giving someone your full attention is one of the most mindful, loving and compassionate acts, and you can practise at home or work. Focus your attention lightly and openly on the other person, really listening to them rather than just passively hearing them. Notice how the quality of your communication improves.
- Compassionate touch – By putting your hand over your heart, or another area that is soothing, we reconnect to our body and our capacity to love and accept ourselves. This is one of the most transformative aspects of mindfulness for me. Try adding a phrase such as ‘I love and accept myself’.
For more information about how mindfulness coaching could help you overcome challenges and experience more joy in life, see jenwoodwellbeing.com, or contact hello@jenwoodwellbeing. Sessions available in Dalkeith Country Park, the West End of Edinburgh and via Skype.
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