Mini Mindfulness Moments: How to Create a Moment of Calm in a Busy World
Mindfulness has taken the world by storm and is widely used in the work place and home. Clinically, it has been shown to make a difference in wellbeing, with reductions in stress, increases in productivity and uplifts in emotional health. The act of practicing mindfulness helps us to notice ourselves as well as what is actually going on for us at any given moment. It sounds too simple to be useful - but if you are being truthful with yourself, when was the last time you actually stopped and really focussed on exactly how do you feel? I mean really intentionally focusing on yourself, noticing physical presence, your environment, your mind chatter and your emotional health. If you have already done this today, marvellous. If not, pause a moment and think about why not? Very often, it's time that gets in the way as there is a lot competing for our attention. However, you deserve some time to yourself. You deserve a moment to be heard, especially by you. You deserve some time to focus on your inner wellbeing.
Studies around the world have shown that meditation actually does have some physical effects in that long term meditators have increased volume of grey matter in the brain. It also increases connectivity between different parts of the brain. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to alter the part of the brain responsible for making the mind wander randomly from thought to thought, which in itself, is often a characteristic of being less happy. Some studies also indicate that mindfulness can help with the symptoms of depression in some people. There is also evidence to show that a relatively short course of mindful meditation (8 weeks) led to a feeling of decreased stress, increased attention and concentration.
Mindfulness is simply meditation that encourages focus on the here and now, for you and nobody else. It is not a magic bullet but it does help train the brain to increase awareness of the here and now. Mindfulness practice can be very structured, involving a sitting meditation. It can also be very informal, by taking the opportunity to do daily activities of living mindfully rather than letting your mind wander onto something else. Either way, you are taking a moment to intentionally keep your focus on what you are doing now.
There are a lot of resources available to learn mindfulness. A good place to start is the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn who is accredited for bringing ancient Buddhist principles of mindfulness into western culture. There are also many resources online as well as accredited courses & one to one teachers available. However, you can simply begin at the beginning, notice yourself, become aware of your thinking and remember that you are worthy of the time. If you have a moment, you can also try the Mini Mindfulness Activity listed below.
Find a place where you can comfortably sit and be quiet for a moment. Make yourself comfortable. In a moment, you are going to take a look at yourself, observing what it is like in this moment of time, describing it to yourself without criticism or judgement.
Begin by focusing on your breathing, noticing the breath entering and leaving the body. Become aware of how that actually feels, the rhythm of the breath, the movement of the lungs, the sound of the breathing. Focus on this for a little while, taking the opportunity to notice everything about the simple act of breathing, describing it to yourself. If your mind begins to wander, notice this too and then re-focus on your breathing.
After a few minutes, start to notice the rest of your physical body. Beginning at the top of your head, how does that feel? How are you holding your head? What do you notice about this posture? What else are you aware of?
Repeat this process all the way down the body, from head to toe.
Then spend some time observing your thoughts. What is actually running through your mind right now? What do you notice about this? What emotions are you aware of in this moment?
When you have done this, bring your attention back to where you are, fully present, ready to carry on with whatever it is you need to do today.
As with any other thing, mindfulness is a skill that needs to be practiced but it does get easier as time goes on. Anybody can give it a try, there is nothing to lose but perhaps, a lot to gain.
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