We are hearing a lot about mindfulness these days. Indeed, it is fast becoming one of the most popular fitness activities around. Well, why shouldn’t we limber our minds with a similar attitude we have towards strengthening our bodies through exercise?
Getting in touch with yourself, connecting, being at peace with your mind, life, your surroundings and ultimately finding inner calm and tranquillity are all topics associated with the current mindfulness trend and a broader understanding of what fitness means. But what is mindfulness and why has it become so popular and relevant today?
Mindfulness differs from but is a dimension of the art of meditation and in recent years has become very popular. It essentially means a person practising mindfulness can ‘see’ their thoughts, worries and feelings and through breathing techniques can rid themselves of any associated negativity.
Mindfulness can help us take control of our lives by being better aware of our thoughts, behaviour, reactions and feelings rather than allow life to happen to us. It goes some way to dispel the idea we have no way of preventing or changing what occurs. It is said to provide the tools or exercises to help us manage emotions, through improving our awareness and ability to respond suitably and effectively to situations and events we find individually challenging.
When practised regularly, mindfulness can become second nature. We can change our outlook, the processing of our thoughts and recognising feelings can become as simple as breathing itself. Through thought and visualisation techniques, we are empowered and learn how to manage our happiness or lack of it through channelling and confronting negative thought processes and thus, having greater compassion for ourselves.
How can it help me?
Being forever busy and plugged into the world both physically and digitally speaking, leaves us little time to go back to basics and reconnect with ourselves. Mindfulness and the techniques involved can help to achieve this and in turn, help us feel rejuvenated and alive rather than just going through the motions.
A lack of mindfulness is often cited for the rise in mental health issues which include anxiety and depression due to the pace of life in general and the lack of opportunities we give ourselves to relax genuinely.
Where has mindfulness come from?
Mindfulness techniques are embedded in Buddhist practices and in fact, forms part of their Eightfold Path. While not Buddhist in isolation, it is indeed regarded as being heavily influenced by their framework. Arguably, mindfulness was introduced to the West as a pain management technique by Jon Kabat Zin. In using mindfulness to manage pain, he found stress levels were also reduced, and since then, the practice has mushroomed.
Who can practice mindfulness?
Anyone can practice mindfulness, but at the same time, therapy based versions may not be for everyone. BeMindful.co.uk say like any treatment or therapeutic technique, the impact is not universal and the benefits can vary from person to person. But, it could be particularly useful for people suffering from mental health issues or anxiety.
That said, mindfulness practices and techniques can vary in intensity from practising for a few minutes a day and making it part of a daily routine to participating in more extended and formal therapy sessions. Now becoming a mainstream activity and being encouraged in the workplace, companies like Google and Apple include meditation time to the working day. So really, anyone can benefit from introducing mindfulness techniques to their lives. Given the benefits are becoming more widely recognised, there are now campaigns for mindfulness to be launched in schools.
Taking time out to practice mindfulness may be the most significant barrier for many people as life is so busy and day to day tasks and demands can take a toll on our free time. However, many people report greater contentment and wellbeing when introducing mindfulness successfully in their lives.
Living alone by nature may bring about more opportunities to practice mindfulness. Times of solitude and being home alone may provide valuable time to practice meditation, particularly if being alone is something you are yet to or are slowly becoming accustomed to. It may also give solos the advantage of adopting a mindfulness routine and being able to meet up with others to take part in group mindfulness as it doesn’t necessarily have to be done in isolation.
Mindfulness is also said to combat loneliness and be a useful tool for those who struggle to forge friendships or develop social networks as it can boost confidence and help people to feel mentally stronger. While living alone and loneliness don’t necessarily go hand in hand, mindful meditation could be a useful tool in developing physical and mental wellbeing in single adults, especially men. Men living alone may find it harder to connect with people or reach out to new environments, but mindfulness is said to train the mind in the same way exercise prepares and trains the body for better health.
Mindfulness may be hot right now, but rather than just being a trend, it can also have far-reaching benefits for those of us in it for the long game.