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There has been much written about mindfulness and it can appear to be quite difficult to apply to our everyday lives. Often it gets confused with meditation and people think they have to set aside time every day to be mindful.
Mindfulness actually means paying attention in a particular way. It means focusing on what we are doing and not worrying about the past or future. Mindfulness doesn’t conflict with any beliefs or traditions, whether religious, cultural or scientific.
We might go out into the garden and think the flowerbeds need weeding or the grass needs cutting. A young child will call out “Hey, I’ve found a caterpillar”. We don’t take time to notice the roses in bloom or the daisies turning their heads to the sun in that over long lawn.
Mindfulness is simply noticing what we don’t normally notice because we are so busy with our lives. Being mindful helps to focus our attention, and when we chose what we focus on then we are living mindfully.
Mindfulness can relate to our everyday lives. When we are washing dishes we are often thinking about what other tasks we have to do, perhaps even being cross or annoyed at the everyday task. But if this becomes a mindful activity we begin to notice the water temperature, the texture of the bubbles, even the rainbows in the soap bubbles before they pop. We notice the sounds the water makes as we move the cups and plates around. We begin to notice many things that normally pass us by.
Mindful walking brings many pleasures. Rather than worrying about the past or the future for a short time we can look around and notice what we see and hear – flowers in front gardens, moss in the cracks of the pavement, the changing seasons even if we live in towns. Recently on a morning walk in Leatherhead I saw a wren on the brambles. Such a tiny bird. I stood and watched it for a short time before it flew off about its own business.
We can notice the movement of our arms and legs, the sensations created by walking on different surfaces. We can also pay attention to the sound of our feet on a gravel path or the feeling of a sharp stone through the soles of our shoes. Perhaps we hear the snap of a twig underfoot.
The more we practise, the more we notice how intrusive thoughts force their way into our mind and that’s okay. The only aim of our mindful activity is to keep bringing our thoughts back to the activity and to be mindful of it.
Mindfulness is not meditation or hypnosis but here at my clinic in Leatherhead I often find that helping people to become mindful in their everyday life can be a great benefit especially for those who suffer from anxiety and overthinking.