Mindfulness is the act of becoming aware of our sensations, thoughts and feelings in the present moment. Although what we hear about mindfulness may sound quite abstract and unattainable in our busy lives, there are easy ways to incorporate small practices of mindfulness into our daily lives. There is now much evidence that the daily practice of mindfulness significantly reduces stress, anxiety and depression. With all the uncertainty in the world right now, mindfulness has never been more important. So how exactly does one practice mindfulness and what relevance does it have to mental health? Being mindful means giving your full undivided attention to what you are doing, wherever you are doing it. If you are in the shower, be fully in the shower (mind and body). Try not to let your thoughts wander by reviewing this morning or listing what you need to do later today. Becoming mindful of our breath is a good place to start with the practice. So often, we don't even notice our breathing and it becomes shallow when we feel anxious or stressed. Even noticing our breathing once every hour will help us tune into how we are feeling and we will generally slow our breathing and then we may feel calmer. Practise 'pausing' during the day by taking a few breaths consciously between activities. Another way to practice mindfulness is through mindful eating. Making the decision to be mindful while completing everyday tasks such as washing dishes, having a shower or washing our hands can provide a daily reminder to practice mindfulness. In terms of anxiety, living in the present moment alleviates anxiety as we bring our full attention to the now. All anxiety is future based- the 'what if's' and the worries about the future bring us away from the present moment so that we never really feel like we are living our lives fully. When we feel depressed, we tend to mull over all that is wrong and we worry unnecessarily about all the negative possibilities which may present themselves in the future. Paying attention in a non-judgemental way to feelings of sadness or depression allows us to accept these feelings and not battle against them. Often when we observe these feelings and become aware of ourselves as the observer rather than becoming the feeling itself, our focus shifts. We don't deny the feelings of sadness but no longer become absorbed into the feelings. Focusing on the senses brings us fully into the present moment- notice what you hear, smell, taste, touch. When we become mindful we become aware of the simple pleasures in the present moment and it is easier to feel gratitude for what we have.
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