Mindfulness is arguably the buzzword of the past few years. From Google holding courses for its employees to Apple announcing a new app for mindfulness on its watch, it's hard to escape it. For the uninitiated, mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The idea is that by being present, we can feel better about ourselves, make better decisions and generally feel calmer in our day-to-day lives.
And if you need more proof that this is really the new go-to method for helping people to feel calmer, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence) even suggests it as a treatment for those with depression, with 30 percent of British GPs now referring patients for mindfulness-based treatment.
But it's not just a method used for those suffering from mental health conditions, it's also a fantastic practice for people who deal with everyday stressful situations (that's most of us then). We turned to Dr. Elaine Weatherley-Jones, a chartered psychologist and a teacher of mindfulness-based approaches, to see how we can incorporate the technique into our daily life for when we're feeling anxious, stressed at work or unable to sleep. Keep scrolling for your mindfulness solution, whatever your daily stress trigger may be…
"The first thing to ask yourself is ‘how do you know you’re anxious?' Locate where you’re experiencing this in your body and deliberately bring your attention to it. So, for example, are you experiencing a rapid heart rate? Don’t try to stop this from happening and focus on this sensation.
If you’re still lying in bed, try to stand up and pay attention to the feeling of your feet against the floor and how you can feel yourself balancing. Now try to deliberately notice everything. Notice how your body is moving as your weight changes from one foot to the other. Try walking to the kitchen with deliberate movements. Hold a glass under the tap and let the water flow over. Now check in and see how those feelings are doing. Are you still anxious?"
"Let’s say there’s somebody with a buggy on the tube, and it’s catching the back of your heel. So draw your attention and notice your experiences; the back of your ankles might be hurting, you feel anger, or both. At that point, it's important to notice that you’re getting involved in a story of ‘if I had a buggy, I wouldn’t do that.’ Allow that idea of the story to be present without acting on it. Make that choice to not act on it. By slowing down and really owning what your feelings are, you won’t be acting out of a knee-jerk response. You’ve owned your own irritation. Then, if you choose to take action, you won’t behave inappropriately."
"Whatever the difficulties that arise, mindfulness can help you to stop that voice inside your head from trying to fix things. If you turn your attention to something that’s going on inside you, you'll find you understand yourself more and are less likely to react negatively. Don’t focus on the circumstances; focus on the feelings. It’s all based on your own anxieties, but if you look at what you are feeling, then what you’ll find is that you’re being a bit harsh on yourself."
"It takes years of practice to be mindful while your buttons are being pressed. So let’s say you're in a situation after you’ve got angry with a colleague or even a family member. In this case, I would advise you to sit somewhere quietly. See if it’s possible to step away from the story. Avoid the internal narrative of trying to mollify or fix the situation. See if you can step away from being very reactive and explore what your feelings are—you’ll often find there’ll be emotions other than anger. Try to bring a quality and compassion to your emotions as you would do to a small child who was upset. Then what you’ll find, once you’ve given yourself that compassion, you’ll be able to choose how you act."
"It’s called a three-stage breathing space but you can do it in 30 seconds. Decide that you’re going to have a three-minute breathing space and then find somewhere to do this. If you can't do this at your desk, it might be better to do this in the bathroom. If possible, try to close your eyes, but if that's not possible allow your eyes to go into soft focus. Try to avoid answering phones in the next few minutes. Draw your attention right into the body. Do a quick check on how you are right now. Take a note of what your thoughts are and make a list of your body, head and heart and how they're feeling. Then deliberately bring your attention to the breath and notice your breathing. The third stage is to draw your attention to the outside experience. Before you open your eyes, start noticing the noises around you. You might not notice the effects of this practice straight away, but the idea is to not be more relaxed but more conscious. Essentially, you’re stopping yourself feeling like a hamster on a wheel."
"If you're really struggling with something like depression, then you need to speak to your doctor."
"Firstly, forget the idea of sleep as an objective. Stay in bed and accept that you’re not going to stop your ideas from whirring around—instead deliberately draw your attention to the body and really draw on your physical sensations. I'd recommend following a body scan [Ed note: essentially sweeping through the body with your mind] on YouTube and listening to that to help you sleep."
Recommended mindfulness books:
Want more? Here are five ways to feel less anxious in under a minute.
Opening Image: Wildfox