NE Life Coach – Mindfulness Pain Stress
Mindfulness is certainly continuing to have its ‘moment’. Mindfulness apps, mindfulness colouring books, mindfulness courses for stress, for pain, for depression; mindful eating, mindful walking and the list goes on.
Out of curiosity I searched on google with the term ‘mindfulness apps’ and received 33.5 million results. Best apps, worst apps, mindfulness apps for children, adults, keeping calm, for sleeping, top 5 free apps, best mindfulness apps of 2020 and lots more!
With such popularity comes an almost consensus reality regarding what mindfulness is and how to practice it. I cannot help feeling that we are complicating something that is, by its nature, pure simplicity. If you try to define mindfulness you will encounter many varied definitions (google search produced 220 million results for this search term). If you want to start a mindfulness practice, where on earth do you begin?
What is mindfulness?
As far as definitions go, the common themes are compassion, non-judgemental, focus, being present, noticing, curiosity, openness and oh here we go again – how many should I list? I could spend all day listing common themes within the definitions and with 220 million results it probably covers most things!
I shall humbly offer up what it means to me. The easiest way for me to understand it was to think of it in terms of what I already understand and the phrase that came to mind was ‘taking time to stop and smell the roses.’
For me, mindfulness began with being kind to myself and just taking time to breathe and stop (I’m sure there is a song there!). That was it. Nothing fancy, no apps, no guided meditations; it was the simplicity of breathing.
I’m not knocking these things they can be really useful and if it works for you – go for it! I began my own mindfulness practice when I was extremely ill with clinical depression and at that time, it was important for me to feel in control of it rather than needing to rely on something else to carry it out.
Our lives are so busy these days and everything can feel that it needs to be completed at break-neck speed, we rarely do take time to stop and smell the roses! Now, I do. Mindfulness has helped me enjoy more ‘moments’ and before you know it, those moments begin to add up and you find that you are more ‘present’ for more of the time. You begin to notice that you are calmer and kinder; especially kinder to yourself!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wandering around in a happy daze! I have more control over where I place my focus and attention, it doesn’t drift off as much as it used to. I find that I am now able to consciously choose to place my focus elsewhere rather than my mind just wandering off unattended. I am a work in progress and I have lots to learn which I find wonderful.
Benefits of mindfulness
There has been a plethora of research carried out into the benefits of mindfulness and you can easily search online to find these. Here, I want to share with you my own experience of how mindfulness has helped me; it has been key to making positive changes in my life.
Flavour is stronger. By placing my focus completely on what I’m eating or drinking I’m noticing that I taste more. This has meant that I’ve discovered that I don’t actually like the taste of food I thought I really liked and needed to have. I’ve even found that some foods I thought I didn’t enjoy are really rather tasty! By placing my focus on each mouthful, savouring it and allowing myself to full experience the flavour I am making better choices regarding food.
I don’t eat as much. Mindfulness has helped me notice when I’m beginning to feel satiated. There are still times when I eat a meal and am the far side of comfortably full and that’s fine when it’s not regular and it’s great when it has been a conscious decision.
Mindfulness has been an enormous help with this. Carrying out a 3-minute mindful breathing meditation immediately reduces my stress levels and a regular use of mindfulness meditation reduces your stress overall stress levels and stress reaction over time.
The impact that mindfulness had on my depression was a key turning point in my life. There are still triggers that could send me spiralling down that black hole but my mindfulness practice has meant that I notice the warning signs much earlier and am able to deal with much more effectively and compassionately.
Mindfulness has been a key factor in changing the way I react to negative thoughts. I don’t fight them anymore; I welcome them, thank them and allow them to drift on by. I no longer judge myself for having them, I accept that they are there for a reason.
Mindfulness meditation is an integral part of my pain management routine. I take far less pain medication than I used to and if I practice and focus enough, I can use my breathing meditations to help me simply notice the feelings in my body without connecting them to pain. This has meant that I’ve been able to do things that my pain would have previously prevented.
I’ve found that my focus has certainly increased after introducing regular mindfulness meditations and now if I’m faced with a particularly challenging task, I try to do a short meditation before it and it certainly helps me focus more.
If you are feeling stressed, unhealthy or unhappy and would like to have more satisfaction in your life, then you may be ready to introduce yourself to mindfulness.
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