Kabat-Zinn founded modern mindfulness in 1979 by enlisting 51 patients aged 22 -75 years who suffered chronic pain. During the programme that ran for 8 – 10 weeks, he helped the patients to observe their pain in a non-judgmental way rather than trying to be agitated about it. As a result, the patients started to feel better about themselves and accepted their pain.
If you have a busy life, get easily distracted or overthink everything, mindfulness could be for you. Mindfulness is an awareness of your present moment. Rather than thinking about what has happened in the past or what is due to happen in the future, it centres us in the here and now.
Mindfulness is not only a breathing exercise. You can be mindful no matter what you are doing. It is not just a relaxation technique either. Mindfulness helps you concentrate on yourself and every moment of your life. And it is not about emptying your mind and avoiding thought. It is very difficult to empty your mind completely. Even when we are asleep, our brain is still thinking. Another common misconception is that mindfulness is another form of yoga. Although yoga is a good all-round exercise for body and mind, mindfulness concentrates solely on emotions and feelings. We make the effort to pay attention. Contrary to popular belief, mindfulness is not a new concept. It is relatively new to the UK, but it is a very old concept that has links to many religions.
Mindfulness specialises in helping us to be aware of the present moment; where we are, what we are doing, what we are being mindful about. And it even helps us ask questions about why we are here and what our individual purpose is in life. We can ask ourselves what our strengths are and what our weaknesses are. Mindfulness can help us to accept others without forming judgmental opinions of them. In our day to day lives, we think a lot and accumulate ideas and opinions. Mindfulness helps us to act non-reactively. Through this practice, we learn to observe without reacting.
Mindfulness allows us to:
- Train our mind to reduce rumination and worry
- Reduce stress levels and general distress
- Bring our attention back from wandering away with our thoughts, helping with depression and anxiety
- Focus in the present moment, which aids with well-being
- Release emotions and negative thoughts, which boosts our quality of life
Through mindfulness you can meditate and consider the nature of your own thoughts.
During your mindfulness exercise, be aware of your own thoughts. This may be difficult if you have lots of different thoughts going through your mind. But try to focus and observe them closely so you can try to remember them afterwards. The exercise begins with slowly closing your eyes and putting your hand on your heart in a compassionate way. Then you take slow, deep breaths in and out. If your hand becomes tired, you can put it down. Discover who you are while you think to yourself. Observe your thoughts while your eyes are closed, and you are slowly breathing in and out. Be aware of all the distractions around you. Be aware of your feelings and where they are coming from. But it is important to remember that you are not your thoughts or your emotions or your feelings. Do not judge yourself. After approximately ten minutes, bring your attention to the present moment and be aware of all your senses. And when you are ready, gently open your eyes and remove your hand from your heart.
After the mindfulness exercise, you can share with others what have been thinking about. You can do this in a group setting or even with just one person who you know. When you talk about your thoughts and feelings, you will find answers that will help you. And you will find that these answers come from within you.