I describe mindfulness as ‘meditation on the go’. Mindfulness.org describes mindfulness as ‘the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us’. It’s a technique that’s been around for many years and you probably remember an elderly (usually) relative telling you to ‘stop and smell the roses’. That is a classic example of mindfulness and basically is about slowing down and being present to all the wonders around us.
The benefits of mindfulness are multiple but in a nutshell mindfulness:
- Helps you be kind to yourself. That nasty voice that we all have in our head that gives us a daily heap of negative self-talk can be quietened down with mindfulness. We all need to be kinder to ourselves!
- Improves your relationships by helping you be more attentive to people. I’m sure we have all had the experience of talking to someone and drifting off.
- Reduces your stress levels. Stress causes plenty of diseases from depression to cancer and everything else in between and there is plenty of evidence for this. So mindfulness makes you healthier!
- Helps you cope with symptoms, e.g. pain as it reduces your emotional attachment to the symptom. It is this emotional attachment or reaction that often worsens or prolongs symptoms.
- Helps you focus. Feeling pulled in a 100 different directions by life, e.g. baking for your childs’ school events whilst paying your bills, getting that report in on time and maintaining your relationship with your family can make your brain feel like a washing machine? Mindfulness is your solution.
A great (for kids and adults!) example of how to be mindful is with the ‘Chocolate mindfulness exercise’, yep you read it right, I said chocolate! It only takes a few minutes and the only ‘equipment’ needed is a piece (or more!) of chocolate. As an I Quit Sugar expert I will obviously suggest an 80% (or more) cacao dark chocolate bar but I’ll leave it up to you and your conscience to decide on what chocolate bar and how much ;-). Please note, it’s really important to read the instructions before starting the exercise and also that there is no right or wrong experience. Celebrate your individual experiences if you are doing it as a group. You can write down your experiences or just think about them in your head.
- Think about the piece of chocolate. What feelings and sensations do you have? Excitement, guilt, heart racing, mouth salivating, joy? There are no wrong feelings and sensations, just note what they are. Do you feel like you want to slowly savour the chocolate or quickly stuff it in your mouth?
- Now look at the chocolate and think about its weight, colour, texture, size and shape.
- Now slowly bring the chocolate towards your nose and smell What does it smell like and again what feelings and sensations do you have?
- Now finally you can put the piece of chocolate in your mouth but DON’T CHEW OR SWALLOW IT YET!! What does it smell like and again what feelings and sensations do you have? Think about where in your mouth you taste it and try to describe the different flavours, e.g. nutty, bitter, toasty. Think again about the weight on your tongue, and the shape, texture, and size of the chocolate in your mouth. Think about how the sensations change as the chocolate melts and it moves around your mouth.
- NOW YOU CAN SWALLOW THE CHOCOLATE! As you swallow it think about the sensation, any after-taste and also about your feelings and any sensations.
So go enjoy your chocolate. It’s a great 1st mindful exercise. Some great resources for mindfulness are the books ‘Frazzled’ by Ruby Wax and ‘Mindfulness’ by Mark Williams and Danny Penman and the website www.mindfulness.org. Have a beautiful mindful day. Please leave your comments and thoughts about your mindful practice.