You’ve probably heard the term “mindfulness” thrown around lately and wondered what all the fuss is about. Counsellor and wellbeing consultant Megan Sanderson fills us in.
Simply put, mindfulness is the act of living in the moment. “It’s the ability to be completely immersed and focused on what you’re doing in the present moment without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by your surroundings,” Mrs Sanderson explains.
Sound doable? It’s actually more difficult than you might think.
According to Sanderson, our minds can have the tendency to jump from thought to thought constantly throughout the day. “It is very difficult for a lot of people to achieve mindfulness, especially if they have high-stress jobs or a lot going on in their lives,” Sanderson says. “Training the mind to be able to focus on one thing at a time can take time.”
Its popularity tells us that the benefits of mindfulness are worth the effort, but what’s it all for? Sanderson believes that through mindfulness “you can activate the calming response in your body so that you're able to make better decisions and live a healthier life.”
Practicing mindfulness1 can lead to:
- reduced stress
- improved focus and attention
- increased creativity
- a greater sense of calm
- improved immunity
- reduced anxiety and depression
- stronger relationships
- better learning and memory
So, amongst the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, how can you start living in the now? Sanderson recommends these three simple techniques:
Turns out it’s not just for kids. The act of colouring can be used to switch off your mind and focus on the task at hand. “It is based on control, repetition and consistency – three key things that are needed to help train the brain to become more mindful,” Sanderson says. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be DaVinci, and there are no rules. Just dust off the old pencils, grab yourself a colouring book and start colouring.
Tap into your five senses
Sanderson says this is a particularly easy exercise to practice at any point of the day. “Stop what you are doing and ask yourself; what can I see, what can I hear, what can I feel, taste and smell?”. By tapping into your five senses, you can use them as a tool to shift your attention away from your thoughts and instead focus on what's happening right here, right now. “When you tap into your five senses you are sent right back into the present moment and can move forward from there,” she adds.
Mindful eating is about being fully focused on your food as you buy, prepare, and eat it. Sanderson explains that to achieve mindful eating you need to stop multitasking and cut out all distractions. “Sit down and fully tune into what you are doing. Look at your food; notice the colours and the smell; chew each mouthful, paying attention to the taste and texture as you’re enjoying your meal”. With mindful eating you can slow down, savour the experience of eating, and bring your focus to the present moment.
If you need a little help getting started on your journey to a more mindful way of life, there are no shortage of apps you can download for free. Our top picks are: Smiling Mind, Calm or Stop Breathe and Think.
This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.