Today I share part 2 of Chapter 16 on Mindfulness from my book ‘Off the Wall’ How to Develop World Class Mental Resilience.
Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future, and constantly multi-tasking. It is easy to lose awareness of the present moment as we become lost in our efforts to juggle work, home, finances, and other conflicting demands.
Becoming more aware of our thoughts, emotions and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do. However, learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to whatever is happening in our lives by being ‘fully in the moment’. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head and body.
It helps us recognise and change habitual emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding.
Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work and improve our quality of life.
Mark Williams, Professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. Mindfulness can be an antidote to the ‘tunnel vision’ that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.
He says that an important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment to moment. Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.
What is Mindfulness?
The acknowledged founder of modern-day mindfulness is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who started the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in the late 1970s. Since then, over 18,000 people have completed the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme to help with conditions as diverse as:
Studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular. This has inspired countless programmes in the US to adapt the MBSR model for schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans centres and beyond.
Stress can affect anyone
“James was 17, in the sixth form and on his way to class after a lunch break. He walked just 100 meters out of the lunchroom when suddenly he was overcome by an intense fear. He started shaking and feeling nauseous and it took him15 minutes before he felt like he could actually move.
These attacks happened on a few further occasions and each time he was sent home, only to be met by his father telling him that he thought James was faking it. To make matters worse, his mother, sister and other family members simply didn’t talk about it, which made him feel very isolated.
In his second year of university, things got worse. His anxiety was getting so bad that he couldn’t attend classes, and conversely missing lessons fuelled his anxiety because he knew that the material he was missing would be on the exam.
He suspended his studies and returned home, and became agoraphobic; spending most days indoors reading, watching TV or playing video games. Oddly he became happy with his little rut but at his worst he wasn’t able to make a 10-minute car journey to visit his gran.
The severity of his anxiety had worsened, coupled with fear and unpleasant physical symptoms.
During this period, he went through different types of treatment such as a support group, a one-to-one version of the support group and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – none of which helped with his symptoms.
Mindfulness was first suggested to him and he was initially sceptical. He thought it seemed very ‘touchy feely’ – like a theoretical, homoeopathic angle on treatment. He wondered how on earth slowing his breathing and thinking ‘happy thoughts’ could help him in the long term?
However, his opinion of mindfulness completely changed after the first session. Since practising mindfulness, he has found that he is more positive generally. It has given him a new perspective on what’s important in his life and he feels like he is a stronger, more resilient person in the face of life’s daily stresses and pressures.
He has gone from trying to block everything out, to dealing with it as and when it occurs, and through the most effective means available to him at the time.
Today, he builds mindfulness into his everyday life. He finds breathing, imagery and meditation exercises most useful and tends to do these once or twice a day.
The biggest shock for him was that he could practise anywhere, anytime, and often without other people knowing. It’s actually very empowering to know that you can control your reactions and feelings in any situation without others even being aware of it.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness is quite specific:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Association of Women Solicitors Manchester – AWS
A special welcome to all the members of the AWS who attended my online ‘Coping with Covid’ Mental Resilience Masterclass and requested to receive my weekly blog. The feedback from this online session was fantastic and thank you all so much for that. I really hope you enjoy these blogs and find them helpful.
Thoughts for the week.
- This week make a huge effort to capture moments where you simply stop and observe something around you.
- Do this on purpose and non-judgmentally.
- Simply observe that leaf on a tree or that old couple holding hands.
- Another way is to breath slowly and focus on your breathing.
- When you are in the moment you cannot be stressed, you experience stress when you think about past events or think about the future.
Next week I conclude the chapter on Mindfulness with some great Action Plans.
Well that’s it for this week have a wonderful weekend and keep believing.