Mindfulness as mind-training
Stress is all in your mind. That’s not to say it isn’t real, but it is created in your mind. Our mind can ‘learn’ to respond to certain situations with a stress response, but it can also learn to respond differently with some training.
Mindfulness can be thought of as awareness. Often in life, we have a lack of awareness and our minds are not fully engaged in what we are doing or experiencing. Our mind may wander. This is a habit and the more we allow our mind to wander the more the habit is reinforced and the stronger it will become. However as with all habits, these can be changed through a gradual process of mind training.
Training your brain to respond differently
The response to a stress-inducing situation is habitual. If we are often impatient for example, then every time we encounter a situation that challenges our patience the habitual behavioural response causes us to become impatient which induces stress.
This principle can be applied to almost every stressful situation. Through our habit we respond to almost all stressful situations so we constantly reinforce the habit. Eventually habits can become so powerful that there is virtually an instantaneous reaction to situations that will bring about stress.
Through a programme of mindfulness training you can begin to become more aware of the circumstances and conditions that will bring about a potentially stressful response and change the pattern of behaviour from a negative “stressful” state to a more controlled positive mindset. Mindfulness is the key to mind training.
- Improved ability to focus
- Increased creativity
- Deeper level of relaxation
- Improved perception and memory
- Decrease in stress hormones
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased cigarette, alcohol, and drug misuse
- Improved motivation
- Improved health and fitness
- Better inter-personal communication
- Reduced accidents-incidents
- Enhanced relationships
- Increased relaxation and decreased stress
- Improved health
- Positive health habits
Want to give it a try? Here are 5 ways to get started with Mindfulness, if you would like to learn more about Mindfulness first, click here for a short series of videos.
- Mindful Breathing – Be still and focus on your breath for one minute. Breathe in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth, purposefully focusing on your breath as it enters and then leaves your body, letting go of your thoughts, your to do list and your worries.
- Five-finger Breathing – A simple technique to instill calm in stressful situations. Hold your hand in front of you, fingers spread. Using your index finger on the other hand, start tracing the outline of your extended hand, starting at the wrist and moving up your pinkie finger. As you trace up each finger, breathe in and as you trace down the other side breathe out. Then reverse the process, starting with the thumb and tracing up and down each finger, inhaling and exhaling slowly as you go.
- Mindful Observation - similar to the principles of forest bathing this helps you notice your environment in a more profound way. Simply choose a natural object and focus on watching it for a minute or two, e.g. clouds, a flower, an insect, a tree. Do not do anything except notice the object, looking at it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Allow yourself to connect with it and it’s purpose within the natural world. Relax.
- Mindful Awareness – Think of something that you do every day more than once, e.g. opening a door, putting the kettle on, climbing the stairs, typing on your computer, preparing a meal. At the very moment you start doing this action take a moment to stop and be mindful of where you are, how you feel in that moment and the purpose of the task in front of you. Think about what you can see, smell, taste, feel, hear and take a moment to appreciate what positive impact this action will have, no matter how small. For example, you might take a moment when preparing a meal to stop and appreciate how lucky you are to have good food to eat and share with family or friends, you might think about how the food will provide energy to your body, and notice the smell and texture of the food as you prepare it.
- Mindful Immersion – Take an everyday routine task and, instead of trying to finish it as quickly as possible, take time to fully experience it like never before. This could be anything from cleaning the house to driving your car, working or doing some gardening. Notice every aspect of your actions as you go about the task, feel and become the motion when you sweep the floor or dig up weeds, sense the muscles you are using and think about how you could make your activity more efficient. The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar and routine, even boring, task! Take the activity beyond a routine by aligning yourself with it physically, mentally and spiritually.
Source adapted from: Validium