Wednesday 13 May 2015

What is Mindfulness?

- Sophie Dishman

Mindfulness is simply being aware of something. Think of knowing that a car is coming or that the microwave is going to beep. You are aware of that happening. You can also do this with your thoughts, feelings and actions. Many of us are on ‘automatic’, we don’t think about things, we just ‘do’. Mindfulness is the opposite of this. We ‘manually’ assess something. It allows us to see things more clearly. It can help calm a situation which has many benefits for the body and the mind. 

Mindfulness is something that is being used a lot within mental health. I have anxiety and OCD and I find mindfulness really helpful. If I am aware of an obsessive thought or am aware that I am getting anxious then I can take the best course of option to minimise the effects. It makes me aware of the present moment, which focuses my thinking. 

Mindfulness also means being with the experience. This means actually thinking about an experience. Why is this happening? This way you become more aware of what has caused the situation. This is a great way to get to know what your triggers are. If you know what your triggers are, then you can control the situation and avoid them where possible. 

If you can do both of these things then you can respond in a better way. You can separate your reaction from the experience. It’s training your brain which can help with mental health problems. If you detract yourself away from the situation, then you can control the outcome that it may have. This is one form of mindfulness. 

I use this form of mindfulness in situations that make me feel anxious such as when I have exams, when I’m submitting assignments and in lectures where my trigger words are used. It helps me focus on the situation and helps me to become conditioned to those experiences so that I don’t feel as anxious. It is more difficult for my OCD, but it does help. 

You can also meditate, which is another form of mindfulness. Meditation can come in many forms. You can sit or lie down, I’ve even known people to stand. I try to mediate every day, once or twice - irrespective of the fact that I’m Buddhist. There are many ways to practice mediation, but I have my own way of doing it. I lie on my back, with my hands on my stomach and I focus on my breathing, counting to ten. I use this as a distraction sometimes - especially in exam period. Some people listen to music, but I like to listen to myself breathing. Some people will focus on a noise. do this if I am really anxious and want to keep my thoughts away. 

After practicing these two forms of mindfulness for a while, I’ve found that they benefit me a lot. I know when I need to use them and when I need to use my other self-coping techniques such as listening to music or writing things down. I use these techniques a lot more than the others though, because of their many benefits. I definitely feel more calm and relaxed about a situation and feel that I am able to cope with it better. I’ve recently used meditation to help me with decisions. I can focus on the pro’s and con’s better and feel that I am more focused on the problem, so I can find a solution. I’ve definitely become a better decision maker because of this. I know the best action for me, instead of acting instantly in the moment. 

It’s really important for me to act mindfully. You shouldn’t feel silly for taking a step back from the situation. It’s important to be aware of yourself and this technique can be used with other coping techniques that you have. You won’t look back…you’ll be looking in the present.

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