Perhaps you have heard about the many benefits, but don’t really understand mindfulness.
Being mindful is something that we all did very naturally when we were small children.
When we are being mindful, we are choosing to notice the details of our experiences, just as they are in this moment and without judging or trying to change them in the first instance.
Gain an Understanding of Mindfulness
Sometimes mindfulness is described as ‘seeing clearly’.
Being mindful, we are waking up to what our senses are telling us. Our minds and bodies constantly receive information, refreshing it moment by moment; this happens automatically and without any effort on our part. Mindfulness invites us to reconnect to this information, using our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. When we’re being mindful, we can choose to pay attention to each experience.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
The following are some ways in which mindfulness has been acknowledged to support people:
Connection – Mindfulness can help us to feel a greater connection with ourselves, and with our experiences in our bodies and our minds. We can also feel more connected to those around us and to the world that we live in.
Perspective – We can stand back and see things more clearly. Mindfulness helps us to look at the ‘bigger picture’ of experiences, which includes what’s right as well as the problems in life. It can open us to pleasurable experiences, and helps offer a balanced view of how life is.
Choice – We can have more choice about where to place our focus of attention, and learn to open up and be receptive to the information this presents. Mindfulness also increases our repertoire of ways we can manage difficulties in our lives, giving us a greater range of choices about how to act.
Self-Knowledge – As we practice mindfulness, we spend a lot of time noticing and becoming familiar with all our experiences – including the difficult things in life. The depth and detail of experience, can greatly add to our understanding.
Changing mental gears – Neurologically, mindfulness appears to help us to engage a different ‘mental gear’ – one in which we can see clearly how things are now – and find appropriate and creative responses that are relevant and helpful.
A Mindfulness Exercise to try: Tuning in to Sitting
Here is an example of how to practise mindfulness by tuning in to your experience, just as it is this moment. You are going to spend 5 minutes simply by noticing whatever you notice about your experience of sitting.
- Notice the sensations as you sit here – your feet making contact with the floor, your bottom on the seat of the chair or on the cushion. Is there any feeling of pressure, or perhaps hardness or softness?
- Can you feel any difference in temperature between your body parts and the various surfaces they are touching?
- Does your body feel large or small compared to the chair you are sitting on?
- Can you hear anything? What are the different sounds that you notice around you?
- What else do you notice as you sit here for a few more moments?
- There is no need to change your experience in any way – just notice.
Acting on Autopilot
Maybe you know what it’s like to drive somewhere and have little memory of the journey, or perhaps read a book and find you have turned the pages without knowing what you’ve been reading? Importantly, we often can’t bring to mind the thoughts that we have been having during these times. On such occasions, we are not making choice about where our minds go and we are operating on ‘autopilot’.
Our mind’s ability to be on autopilot is, in fact, essential as it allows us to cope with all sorts of incoming information and manage the complex and routine tasks in our lives.
Mindfulness lets us choose where to focus our attention, opening ourselves to details of experience that we have missed for years. When we are operating on autopilot, we tend to react habitually without access to the fuller picture. But by noticing all the detail around us at any given time, we can avail ourselves of a greater range of choices when it comes with dealing with our experience.
Mindfulness with Children
When and how can we introduce mindfulness to our children?
In some ways it’s never too early – there are mindfulness programs to help parents prepare for birth, and once your baby has arrived the opportunities for practising mindfulness are plentiful – for example, through mindful baby bathing, or mindful walking when you have a crying baby late at night.
One way of explaining the concept of mindfulness to children is with a ‘snow globe’. An agitated mind, when we can’t think clearly, is like a shaken up snow globe when we can’t see the figures inside.
However, if we wait calmly, focusing on our breath for a few breaths, the ‘snow’ settles and we can see clearly. The ‘snow’ hasn’t gone away, but it has settled enough for us to see what we are dealing with. The best way to introduce mindfulness practice to children is through play. Playing is a child’s natural route to openness and curiosity.
If you would like help understanding mindfulness, and how to discover its many benefits for yourself, please do not hesitate to make an appointment with me.
Author: Shokria Siddiqui, BSc.Psych, PGDipPsych, PGDipMH, MPsych, MAPS.
Shokria Siddiqui is a Brisbane Psychologist working with all ages, however she has a particular interest in children and adolescents. By implementing evidence-based therapies that have been scientifically tested, building rapport with her clients, and creating a safe therapeutic space, Shokria helps her clients and their families to better meet life’s challenges.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Shokria Siddiqui, try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call Vision Psychology on (07) 3088 5422.