Mindfulness, Meditation, Taking Notice - what is all this b******s
You've probably heard of mindfulness recently, you've also probably heard of meditation and maybe even ‘Taking Notice' from The Five Ways to Wellbeing (1). So what the hell are they? Essentially all these things tell us to pay attention, to be more awake and aware of the here and now – focussing on the moment. Despite these words being on fleek presently, the concepts are as old as Arnold Schwarzenegger now looks (still would though).
Too often we are on a treadmill of thoughts whilst ‘time travelling' in the past or the future. The objective of the aforementioned concepts is not to clear the mind, but to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and where they are coming from by focussing on the present. There is clear evidence that daily mindful meditation can have a beneficial impact on our inner feng shui.
Mindfulness is a method of mental training that involves paying attention, without judgement, to the present moment. It is a quality that is developed over time through practices such as meditation. It is the ability to ‘let go' of our thoughts and feelings. Through the practice of mindfulness, we can become more self-aware and attuned to the things around us and so begin to observe our experience and ‘not get caught up in it'. By doing so we make fewer judgements about our thoughts, therefore we can become less absorbed in them and so can respond in a more helpful way.
So Take Notice… Be intrigued. See the loveliness of the world around you. Talk about your observations. Go outside and drink in the sky. Savour the moment, whether you are on the loo, having some 'alone time' or eating vegan macaroni cheese. Be observant of your environment and what you are feeling. Reflection on our everyday experiences helps us to appreciate what matters, rather than just getting carried away in the rat race.
Your body is capable of alerting you not just to illness, but also when we need to chill the f**k out, get active or walk away from a situation, rather than punching someone. Everyone 'feels' in a unique way – that's ok, you're you. Its how we allow that feeling to make us behave thats crucial.
As Jack Sparrow suggests: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem”. How you think (cognitions) about yourself, the world and other people influence how you feel (emotions), how you act (behaviours) and our physiology (stress response or calm).
Our thoughts can at times be realistic and helpful, at other times though they can be really bloody unhelpful, like when you convince yourself you are going to die alone, eaten by guinea pigs. Using mindfulness meditation allows us to view our inner traffic light system. For example, Red thoughts have reached the point of unhelpfulness, Amber is when you have ‘caught’ or ‘spotted’ that a thought is unrealistic or unhelpful and Green is the helpful thought you replace or challenge the red thought with.
The first step in telling bad thoughts to piss off is to notice them and remove the beast by re-labelling them. For example, make it less demonic by saying ‘it’s a red thought’ or ‘caught you f****r’ to yourself. Then mentally give it the 'V's'– don’t give it any attention. Don’t let it shit on you – stand tall! Try and replace the thought with a more helpful ‘green’ thought – think what would the Dali Lama say – what would you say to your best friend – take a step back notice what is reality and what is perception.
If you have a worry or a problem try to solve it rather than let it fester and grow mould. Set aside some time each day (30 mins) to deal with worries. This helps us to avoid a snowball of worrying throughout the day leading to a fall blown avalanche of shit. Use a problem-solving approach to deal with your thoughts, break problems down into manageable and achievable chunks. Using the stress bucket can help with this.
Try a Chocolate Meditation (this is a great one for beginners - warning your relationship with chocolate may change).
or as an alternative try the: One Minute Meditation
Sit erect in a chair. If possible bring your back a little way from the rear of the chair so your spine is self-supporting. Your feet can be flat on the floor. Close your eyes or lower your gaze. Focus your attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Stay in touch with the different sensations of each in-breath and each out-breath. Observe the breath without looking for anything special to happen. There is no need to alter your breathing in any way. After a while, your attention may wander. When you notice this gently bring back your attention to your breath, without giving yourself a hard time – the act of realising that your mind has wandered and bringing your attention back without criticising yourself is central to the practice of mindfulness meditation. Your mind may eventually become calm like a still pond – or it may not. Even if you get a sense of absolute stillness, it may only be fleeting. If you feel angry or exasperated, notice this may be fleeting too. Whatever happens, just allow it to be as it is. After a minute, let your eyes open and take in the room again.
Both meditations are taken from the below book (2), find the authors website here.
There are many great apps out there to help you start your journey in mindfulness meditation. As a personal recommendation I love the Calm app or as an alternative Headspace. Your mind makes you, you, so invest some time into looking after it, peace and love Becky.
(2) Williams and Penman (2011) Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world Publisher Hachette UK.
(1) The Five Ways to Wellbeing, (NEF) 2005