What Is Mindfulness And Why Should I Try It?

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Mindfulness: Everyone’s Talking About It But What Is It?

BY BRITTANY MCGILL

Mindfulness definitely isn’t new – in fact it’s an ancient practice derived from Buddhism – right now though, it’s ‘in’. Mindfulness is having a pop culture moment.

It’s getting a mention everywhere – it’s talked about by mental health professionals, doctors, academics, politicians, business leaders, celebrities. Governments are talking about introducing mindfulness training in schools, universities (Harvard no less) are teaching ‘mindful leadership’, more people are taking up yoga in an attempt to be more ‘mindful’ – there’s a definite buzz.

So what’s all the fuss about? What is mindfulness and how can it benefit you?

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Mindfulness is a mental state that involves paying attention to the present moment in an open, curious and non-judgmental manner. This includes paying attention to external experiences (what’s going on around you), as well as your internal experiences (emotions and thoughts).

Most of us are terrible at being present. We think about deadlines at work, earlier conversations, what we’ll have for dinner – everything but the here and now.

this...the present isn't nearly as stressful as the past or the future

this…the present isn’t nearly as stressful as the future

There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the past or the future, but if your head is constantly buzzing – you’re more vulnerable to stress, anxiety, and low mood. The solution? Spend some time in the present.

Formal meditation is one way to be present, but mindfulness isn’t just about meditation. There are other things you can do in your daily life to be more present in the here and now.

Next time you’re in the shower or eating a meal, instead of letting your mind wander, bring it back to the present by using your senses. Ask yourself:

What can I feel? What is the texture like – is it rough or smooth? Where on your body can you feel sensations?

What can I see? What colours are around me? What patterns or textures can I see?

What sounds can I hear? Are they loud or quiet? Are they long sounds or short sounds?

What can I smell? Are there layers of smell or is there only a single smell? Is the smell pleasant or unpleasant? Are the scents sweet or sour?

What can I taste? Are the flavours constant or are they changing?

Your can use your senses to anchor you in the present moment during any task – while you brush your teeth, while you’re getting dressed, while you cook. Pick a task that you do every day and set yourself the goal of staying present while you do it. The results might surprise you.

Brittany McGill is a clinical psychologist registrar who completed her postgraduate clinical training at the University of New South Wales. She is interested in anxiety and mood disorders across the lifespan and uses cognitive-behavioural and other evidence-based strategies to help people achieve positive change in their lives.


 

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