How To Be Mindful

How To Be Mindful

Are you permanently stressed–out, constantly mulling over the past and worrying endlessly about the future? Do you lie in bed fretting – just wishing your mind would go quiet so you can sleep? Many of us in the 21st century live in a heightened state of anxiety, chasing our own tails, unable to relax and enjoy what is happening in the moment, living inside our own heads and failing to notice what is all around us.

Mindfulness is a mental health toolkit designed to teach people to live in and enjoy the moment, putting aside your troubles from the past and not fretting about what lies ahead.

Some describe mindfulness as treating yourself more kindly or teaching you to rediscover your joie de vivre. Of course it’s now a new idea – we’ve all heard the expression “smell the roses” and the concept of enjoying and learning to live in the moment is the basis of ancient Buddhism.

If you apply it to physical exercise – for example, running – it’s about becoming more aware of your body in the moment, of each step you take, concentrating on your feet and how they feel and focusing on your breath, so you are in the moment, enhancing your enjoyment.

Does it work?

If mindfulness sounds a bit hippy–dippy–summer–of–love–ish – be reassured it is an approach that’s underpinned by a solid basis in scientific research. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends mindfulness as a way of preventing depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression. Research has shown it as effective as antidepressants.

The benefits of mindfulness in preventing serious depression and emotional distress have been proven by 10 clinical trials, according to the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, based at Oxford University.

Having said that it’s not a one-size-fits-all cure for depression and anxiety in everyone and research is still ongoing into who benefits most from mindfulness.

Also it’s not just a treatment for people with clinical depression – it can be a useful approach for anyone who is stressed out, rushing around and at risk of burnout as a way of “checking-in” with yourself and what’s going on around you. You don’t have to be stressed or ill to benefit from the strategies it can teach you to live with more appreciation and less anxiety.

What are you taught?

You’re encouraged to:

  • Reconnect with your body and the sensations you experience.
  • To make a conscious effort to be aware of the sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment – come off auto pilot in other words.
  • Remind yourself to notice your everyday surroundings – sometimes it’s suggested you do this at a set time of day – but it doesn’t have to be sitting cross-legged on the floor – it could be sitting on a train to work or a few minutes sitting in your garden or other quiet place.
  • Name your thoughts and feelings – for instance be able to recognise a negative thought – like a cloud in the sky or a bus passing by – without necessarily being affected by it.

How can I learn to be mindful?

Sessions are typically offered in a group situation and last eight weeks and include meditation and breathing exercises and are available through the NHS in some areas. But there are also free online courses that have been scientifically validated.

There also books and CDs to guide, such as Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman (available from Amazon £10.49 ) which comes with an accompanying CD with meditation exercises.

  • Find out more by watching this YouTube lecture by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University’s Oxford Mindfulness Centre.

7 Ways to Think Like An Athlete


We admire athletes for their focused approach to performance. They tap into discipline, strength and positive thinking and get results. Think like an athlete and perform better at sport – and in life!

 

chau-cedric-523130-unsplash (1)

 

  1. Think big. Be limitless in your thought process. In a special article for the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors reveal that the more ambitious the weight loss goal, the bigger the success!
    However, it also makes sense to start small, and remember the phrase, ‘every journey starts with a single step’. The moment you make a commitment to getting started is when things start to happen.
  2. Be mindful. In the run up to Wimbledon 2013, it was widely reported how tennis player Novak Djokovic practised both mindfulness and meditation, paying regular visits to a Buddhist temple in London. Mindfulness is a method of focusing on the current moment through activities such as meditation, yoga and breathing.A 10-year study of mindfulness in sport suggested that mindfulness is effective because it helps athletes focus without distraction. “I have to really focus on the job in hand,” Jessica Ennis told Women’s Fitness. “If your mind wanders, you don’t get the most out of the session,” she added.
  3. Endure the pain. “That’s the closest I will come to knowing what it’s like to have a baby,” said Sir Bradley Wiggins when he broke the world record for distance cycled in an hour in the summer of 2015.Don’t get comfortable! Athletes are happy to put up with pain and a review from 2012 revealed that they have a higher pain threshold than the average. Push out of your comfort zone and keep in mind the phrase made famous by Susan Jeffers’ book: Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.
  4. Have a vision. Visualise and rehearse in your mind your best performance. In the film Rush, there’s a scene when world champion racing driver, James Hunt, drives the entire course in his mind, holding his steering wheel and talking through each and every twist and turn. Visualising your success, your race, a slimmer healthier you in action gets results.
  5. Believe in yourself. A study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology aimed to examine what mental toughness was all about. They found of the 12 attributes that define mental toughness an “unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals” emerged as the most important.
  6. Repeat a mantra. Positive self-talk works. Researchers have shown that using simple positive phrases, such as “I can” or “ball-target” help with both power-based and more precision-based skills according to the British Psychological Society.
  7. Celebrate success. Mo has the ‘Mobot’ and Usain Bolt has the ‘lightening’. It’s vital to celebrate your success as it confirms that all the work and commitment was worth it – so bask in your glory.