Mindfulness teaches you to focus all of your attention on the present moment – your thoughts, emotions and environment, sights, sounds, feelings, and bodily sensations.
It’s about being in the present, rather than the past or future, and using this sense of presence to be aware of, and then have the opportunity to manage, negative thought patterns that can consume your mind.
This can bring some much needed calm to our hectic lives. As our psychological health expert, Eugene Farrell, explains:
"In today's fast-paced world, it’s easy to ruminate (or dwell) on troubles from the past or worries about the future. For some people the stress this causes can make them feel physically ill. As people are becoming more aware of the importance of mental wellbeing, many are turning to mindfulness to help them find calm and to better manage these negative thoughts."
There’s no shortage of literature about mindfulness, and there are more than a few misconceptions about the practice. Here, Eugene Farrell clears up what mindfulness isn’t and sheds some light on five of the most common mindfulness myths.
Myth 1: Mindfulness is just meditation
Mindfulness is a term that's sometimes used in place of meditation, and vice versa. While the two are clearly linked – mindfulness is just one of many forms of meditation.
Mindfulness teaches you to focus your attention on the present, and should thoughts intrude upon your session, to notice them without any judgement then return to focussing on your breath.
Sometimes we need to sit and quietly meditate to really unravel these thoughts. By sitting, breathing deeply and focusing on when these feelings come about, we can allow them to come and go and accept them as what they are – without making any judgement, dwelling on them, or letting them impact how we are feeling. Silent meditation can also help us to become much more aware of our body's sensations and exploring these feelings and what they tell us.
Mindfulness can also be part of daily life, however – even just noticing things around us can interrupt the mind's tendency to dwell on the negative.
This can take a variety of forms, such as
- being aware of your sensations and environment during daily activities like your walk to work, your evening meal or your time spent exercising.
- trying a new activity, such as walking a different route to work or visiting a new place and taking the time to absorb the new environment or sensations that come with being out of your comfort zone.
These activities can help us experience new things in a fresh and non-judgemental way. Being in the here and now helps us to enjoy and appreciate things more, whether that be our partner, family, holiday, art, food or drink.