Mindfulness has been used for thousands of years in the Buddhist tradition to improve people’s experience of living. It lowers anxiety and stress, interrupts harmful brooding and will help you to avoid endlessly repeating distressing or unhelpful thoughts, images and mental scenes.
Mindfulness involves taking your attention away from the past and future and away from your imagination – and instead becoming aware of what is going on right now. You can do this as you go about your daily life. Notice with your senses: what you are seeing and hearing, that you are breathing, standing, walking or sitting or lying down, the feel of the air against your skin as you move along. Your mind will keep drifting out of the present so you need to keep bringing it back. It is bringing your mind back to the present that makes up the practice of mindfulness. Never criticise your mind for drifting away: just bring it back kindly and gently.
Exercises like those below have been used for centuries to help people practice mindfulness as they go about their daily life. The first two need only take a minute or so but will help you if you repeat them at intervals during the day.
From time to time, notice your breathing. Notice your posture. Notice the points of contact between your body and the chair, floor, ground. Notice your clothes touching your body. Notice sounds in the room; sounds outside the room; the furthest away sound you can hear. Every time you drift into thinking, just return to noticing these sensations.
This involves using habitual behaviours to remind you to practice mindfulness. Choose one or two and then decide that when performing them you will maintain awareness of what you are doing, rather than daydreaming or getting caught up in fears or anxieties: Using the telephone ~ Going up or down stairs or steps ~Brushing your teeth ~ Eating ~Tidying ~ Driving ~ Washing up ~ Showering.
As you go through your day, notice your breathing from time to time. All you need to do is notice just a few of those 24,000 or so breaths you take every day. Are you breathing with your chest or your tummy (abdominal breathing is usually more relaxing)? As you breathe out, can you feel movement in your tummy? Can you feel the air entering and leaving your nostrils?
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