High pressure times
At times of high pressure, such as we are experiencing at the moment, it is really important to be able to regularly move our attention away from busy thoughts, from constantly checking the news and social media, from overthinking and from worries about the future which we know isn’t helpful for us but is difficult not to get drawn into.
There is lots of evidence that mental wellbeing is greatly enhanced by regularly spending time focussing on what we can experience through our senses in the present moment; what we can see, hear, taste, smell or feel.
This may be physical activity, creating something, becoming immersed in conversation, gardening, appreciating a lovely view, listening to bird song or music and so on. This is us being naturally mindful and, during lockdown, a lot of people found these sorts of activities hugely helpful and many, of course, still do.
However, for some people it can be hard to concentrate on such things at the moment. This is where mindfulness training can be hugely helpful, as it teaches us simple ways of moving our attention away from persistent thoughts by dropping our attention into our senses and giving us a break from our own busy minds.
Mindfulness also helps us to acknowledge when we are suffering and in emotional or physical pain without beating ourselves up about it and to know when to ask for help.
Mindfulness is described as the art of paying attention to the present moment, however it is, without judgement and with curiosity and kindness. The well documented benefits include stress and anxiety reduction, management of depression/low mood and improved sleep.
In mindfulness we talk about monkey mind, describing our minds as being like monkeys leaping from branch to branch – quickly moving from past to future and randomly to something which has nothing to do with anything. It can sometimes seem we are powerless to control where our attention goes. Mindfulness teaches us simple practices which help us to tame and train our monkey minds so we can choose where to hold our attention and identify what is most helpful for us at any particular time. In time we can even learn to tolerate our busy, irrational thoughts without getting drawn into them.
Try these simple mindfulness practices
Even a couple of minutes of being mindful can be helpful. With practice, you will soon be able to call upon mindfulness when you feel stressed, to give yourself a mental break and calm your monkey mind.
Drop into the senses: move into the present moment by fully engaging with each of the senses in turn by noticing and naming……
- 3 things you can see (e.g. blue curtain, green chair)
- 3 things you can touch (e.g. table, woollen cardy, your face)
- 3 things you can hear (e.g. clock, birds, traffic)
- 1 thing you can smell (e.g. food, )
- 1 thing you can taste (e.g. what you last ate, toothpaste)
Mindfulness of breath:
- Bring your attention to your breath, fully experiencing the in breath and the out breath. This can be helped by silently saying ‘In’ and ‘Out’ as you breathe.
- Inevitably the monkey mind will wander (probably a lot at first). Each time it does, let go of the distraction and gently and kindly bring the attention back to the anchor of the breath.
- Be curious about what your monkey mind gets up to and don’t judge yourself.
- Try this for 5 minutes (set a timer) and gradually lengthen the time.
For more tools and resources on wellbeing visit: areyouok.gov.im
Julie Bibby Mindfulness Facebook page. Useful links including free audios and videos from local and international teachers.
Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World- information about what mindfulness is, its benefits and some audios, including some created to help manage fears about the pandemic.
See University College Isle of Man’s Leisure guide for some mindfulness courses.
Book: ‘A Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Workbook for Anxiety’, Stahl, Meleo-Mayer & Koerbel. A guided course with downloadable audios.