Anxious feelings often come from the spiral of anxious thoughts you have.
The constant worry, fear and 'what if' thoughts that are going round and round inside your head.
Many of these anxious thoughts are about what MIGHT happen in the future, and if you struggle with these anxious thoughts and feelings it is likely you spend more time thinking about the future, or the past, then being present in the moment.
Mindfulness is a technique that can help you be more present in the moment, spend less time with your thoughts about the future 'worst case scenarios' and focus more on what is happening in the here and now.
As your ability to spend more time focusing on what is going on around you in the present moment builds, you find you spend less time moving to thoughts about future 'what if's' that contribute to increasing your anxiety.
Over time, and with practice, you will find your anxious thoughts and feelings start to reduce which allows you to start to enjoy the life you are living.
But Mindfulness is too hard to do This is usually the response I get when I suggest Mindfulness techniques to my clients.
Many tell me they have tried it before, that it didn't work, that they don't see how it can help or that it is a bit 'woo woo' for them.
When we explore this further it is often that clients are talking about meditation, clearing their mind of any thoughts or focusing on their breathing. If this is your belief too then this blog is for you.
Mindfulness is NOT just meditation and so this blog is to help you look at mindfulness in a new way and hopefully let you see how it may be helpful to you in reducing your anxious thoughts and feelings.
What is Mindfulness?
So what is the difference between mindfulness and mediation?
the dictionary describes them as:-
Mindfulness-The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; attention, intention, purpose.
Meditation- To engage in mental exercise (such as concentrating on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.
In order to separate the two I will often refer to Mindfulness as Attention Training- training yourself to be more aware of what you are doing, what is around you, what you are feeling in a particular moment.
It does not involve sitting on a cushion or in a yoga pose focusing on your breathing and trying to clear your mind of your thoughts, you can practice it as you go about your normal daily activities.
If your anxious thoughts are all consuming, asking you to clear your mind of them, will feel like an impossible task, but becoming more conscious of what you are doing day to day, and focusing on something that you are doing in any one moment might feel easier for you to do.
As you progress with your Attention Training it may well lead to you being able to practice meditation, and you can start mindful meditation, but lets take one step at a time.
The mindfulness project (https://www.londonmindful.com/aboutmindfulness) describe mindfulness as
'Mindfulness is a simple and very powerful practice of training our attention. It’s simple in that it’s really just about paying attention to what’s happening here and now (i.e. sensations, thoughts, and emotions) in a non-judgemental way. It’s powerful because it can interrupt the habit of getting lost in thoughts, mostly about the future or past, which often generates more stress on top of the real pressures of everyday life'.
Mindfulness in your everyday life
Mindfulness can very easily become part of your everyday life.
Starting with simple, short, exercises you start to become more aware of what is happening in the present moment, become more aware of your surroundings, become more aware of your intentions, become more aware of your feelings, thoughts and sensations.
Through this practice you learn to focus on what is really happening right now, rather than allowing your mind to wander to those future 'what if' scenarios.
You also start to learn that you have control of what is happening right now and that can have a calming effect on you.
Rather than spending your time feeling anxious about possible bad things that could happen in the future, you begin to spend your time living in and enjoying the moment.
So here are some very easy short and simple exercises that you can start to try.
you may find it difficult at first but the more you try the easier it becomes.
If you are struggling it may be a good idea to either seek the help of a counsellor or find some videos on you tube or visit the Mindfulness Project for more help.
Try these simple mindful exercises
One of the key things with all these exercises is to focus on all your 5 senses as you do the activity. Through focusing on your senses you are connecting with what is really happening in the here and now present moment rather than letting your attention move away from what is really happening and entering the world of an imagined future or something you feel you have to worry about.
With each activity focus on the following:-
Touch: As you touch things what do they feel like to you? What is the texture like (e.g., rough, smooth)? Where on your body do you have contact with it? Are there areas of your body with more or less contact with the task? how does the feel of something make you feel?
Sight: What are you seeing and noticing? How does the activity appear? What about the light… the shadows… the contours… the colours? Do you like what you see? Does what you see bring up any emotions for you?
Hearing: What sounds do you notice? What kinds of noises are associated with the activity?Are the noises loud or quiet? Do you like the noise or does it annoy you? Were you aware of this noise when you did the task before?
Smell: What smells do you notice? Do they change during the activity? How many smells are there? Do you like the smell? Does the smell disgust you or repel you?
Taste: What flavours do you notice? Do they change during the activity? What is the quality of the flavours? Did the smell lead you to imagine a taste?
If at any time you feel your attention moving away from your activity, then bring yourself back to the senses which helps bring your attention back to the activity and the present moment.
1 Make a list of mundane household tasks you do everyday
such as the washing up, making your bed, laying the table, hoovering or cooking etc and choose one a day to focus on and practice your attention training.
By really paying attention to what you are doing, with all your senses, rather than going into auto pilot.
Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday mundane household task in order to get on with doing something else, value your regular routine and fully experience it like never before, taking notice of everything you do.
Enjoying the moments you like and noticing the things that you don't enjoy so much.
Take time to think about why you do these tasks, what they bring to you, how life would be if you didn't do these everyday things. Would you appreciate your environment so much, would you get annoyed if they weren't done, how do they contribute to life.
Mindfulness is not just about appreciating the good the things in life, it also helps us to look at all things in a non-judgemental but honest way.
If you are not enjoying something notice this as much as the things you do enjoy, but from the perspective of the here and now and as it feels for you in the moment through that connection with your senses in real time, here and now.
2. Shower or bath mindfully
As you undress feel the cold or warm air on your skin. don't just put your clothes in a pile, but feel them, fold them, be aware of how you fold them.
Turn on the taps and listen to the sound the water makes. Notice the temperature of the water and how it feels for you as you adjust it to your preference.
Focus your attention on the warm water relaxing, softening, and warming your muscles the sensation of the water on your skin.
Smell the scent of the shower gel, take a deep breath and smell it as you squeeze it on your sponge, feel the pleasure of the soap as it lathers and foams on your skin.
Use this time to practice gratitude for the simple pleasures in life, such as having access to clean water on demand and the opportunity to soak in delicate bubbles or the convenience of showering.
A shower or bath is a great opportunity to take a break from your daily tasks and distractions and focus on yourself, make the most of that moment, enjoy the moment, don't rush through it without taking any notice of what it feels like for you, cherish the moment.
You can also practice this with cleaning your teeth, washing your hair, washing your hands etc
3. Connecting with nature
Go to the park or an open space in nature, take some time to think about what environment you would like to be in and how being in a forest or near a beach makes you feel and what environment suits your mood that day.
Practice exploring without distraction by taking in everything around you using all your senses as described.
Feel the sensation of your feet on the ground, is it firm, soft, muddy? Notice as the ground changes how that feels for you as you walk, do you feel safe or is it a bit slippery? What is that like for you?
Let yourself be taken wherever takes your fancy without thinking too hard about your route.
Become aware of the weather, the sun, the wind, the rain, how does the light change as you walk through the trees? Can you see the sun glistening off the sea? How does the weather feel on your skin? do you feel the warmth of the sun or the sharpness of the cold wind? How does it affect your environment? Are the trees swaying or the waves calm or rough?
What are the smells around you? Is there freshly mown gras? or flowers you can stop and feel and smell? Can you smell the saltiness of the sea or the pungent smell of seaweed?
Stop and feel things along the way, different tree trunks, does the bark feel the same on each? Feel the different textures of leaves and flowers, pick up small pebbles or shells are they rough or smooth?
Take in all the sights and sensations, be one with nature and appreciate what it feels like for you to really be in the moment rather than rushing by trying to get from A to B without noticing what is going on around you.
Feel the calmness that this can offer you, if you feel yourself getting distracted, use your senses to bring you back to the present moment.
If you feel that mindfulness could be helpful in reducing your anxiety and encouraging you to connect more with the present moment and move away from anxious thoughts and feelings, but would like some help in being able to achieve this then please do get in touch to book some sessions where we can talk about this in more depth.