Dear Doctor, Mindfulness… to be or not to be?

When did you last stop to notice what your mind is doing? Ok, so this post is a bit out of the box but go with me for this one.

I went to a talk recently about being mindful and it actually felt like a bit of a revelation to me. Now usually when someone starts talking about meditation and feelings, the lights in my head switch off and I’m not home. I am a high stress on the inside, look calm on the outside sort of person and thats how I feel I like things. But for once this talk got my attention!

Mindfulness is actually recommended by NICE for the treatment of mental health problems in the UK now. It’s all about noticing your brain and body and being more aware of yourself. Literally being more mindful of things you already do. Anyone can do it and some people are naturally better at this than others.

It’s not really about changing your behaviour, it’s more about training yourself to notice more. It can be about anything, like noticing your mind wandering and gently bringing it back to focus, noticing the feel of the floor beneath your feet or noticing the way you feel. The aim being, that as you become more mindful you become more in tune with yourself. In time finding it easier to cope with situations knowing how your mind and body would normally respond.

So one of the examples the man gave was, when was the last time you were trying to get to sleep and found your brain wandering? And yes thats me, hands gone up. Then he carries on, did you get annoyed that you have to be up soon, your brains wandering again, now you are counting down the hours, you still can’t sleep because you’re getting stressed about it and the cycle continues until you’re exhausted? So you finally sleep for a few hours and complain the next day about what a rubbish nights sleep you had. And I’m thinking yes that’s still me, I can relate.

But how often do we stop to be mindful of our feelings? How often do we stop and acknowledge the negatives or pause to enjoy the positives?

How about in that situation you stop and think hmm I’m not feeling relaxed or tired today. It’s not a great start to the night but ok that’s how it is and that’s ok! Anyone done that pep talk? Certainly not me! But it breaks the negative spiral. It tells you that you’re actually fine and ok if that’s how I feel today I’m not going to feed it further. It might still be a rubbish night of sleep but it’s not going to be about stress and countdowns to the alarm.

We were then asked to think of something that made us happy. Not something big, just something very small like imagine you just had a great commute to work for once. Imagine it’s a nice morning, you feel fresh and energised with lots of positivity and a spring in your step.  But, you are five minutes late for work… cue your brain.. what does your mind say next? This is a disaster! I must get inside quickly! Why did I walk so slowly? Now my days off to a bad start! And pretty much all of the time we put a negative spin on things, put our heads down and power on.

As for this scenario, how often do we tell ourselves, actually I feel great right now let me just stand here for 30 seconds and enjoy being me! I maybe occasionally do so, if I’ ve made a bit of an effort and look good… actually no because you can guarantee I’m stressing over what I need to do next or where I need to go.

Ok yes, we all have things to do but an extra few seconds to say let me enjoy a moment right now, real me time sounds like something we all should do more often!

So, next time the sun is shining in through the window and you have a peaceful two minutes. Or you are really annoyed about something. Or you are bored brainless. Let’s try to be a bit more mindful. Take a second to break your brain’s circuit. Stop and think yes this is how I am feeling, this is how happy,  or angry, or bored feels for me and that’s ok. I am ok.

I think as humans we train ourselves to ignore the good, get on with our busy lives and punish ourselves for the bad because we should be better! We aren’t very kind to ourselves a lot of the time.

I myself have tried being more mindful, not in the annoyed situation because that’s a stong circuit to break. But definitely in the happy scenario and in particular enjoying the little things in life more. The first breath of fresh air when you step outside in the morning, the first sip of a good cup of tea, the feel of getting under your duvet at night.

Think of the small things you enjoy and actively try to be more mindful of them. It’s so strange how many more things you can actually notice and it’s like little perks of the day that were always already there anyway.

And as for the not so happy emotions, mindfulness says notice them and have a go at accepting them. It’s an easy concept actually but I don’t think it’s that easy to honestly do but let’s work on it.

I think being more mindful could do us all some good.

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