Mindfulness made easy
There are good reasons why you should practice mindfulness, regardless of how busy your life is.
Since the early 1980s, when Jon Kabat-Zinn demonstrated its relieving properties for patients who endure severe chronic pain, mindfulness — a discipline that helps you achieve fully focused intentional, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment — has been applied in a vast range of settings.
Mark Williams and colleagues at Cambridge taught patients suffering from bouts of depression to use MBCT (short for Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression), and found their chance of relapse was significantly reduced.
Paul Grossman at the Freiburg Institute for Mindfulness Research concluded that mindfulness can help relieve symptoms across a wide range of health problems, both mental and physiological.
Sarah Bowen at the University of Washington used mindfulness to help prevent relapse in adults recovering from substance abuse. It has also been shown to help parents with autistic children cope more adaptively with their child’s challenging behaviour.
Not only are the benefits of mindfulness obvious, the approach is also easy to learn. There will almost certainly be a course near you.
Why, then, do so many of us believe it’s difficult to find time to be mindful? The fault lies with practitioners who teach mindfulness as a separate discipline, as something you must set aside time for. Most people find that daunting.
It’s much better instead to think of mindfulness as a way of being; of doing what you already do, but with focus and open-minded, nonjudgmental awareness.
You can do that by starting each day feeling calm and balanced. As soon as you wake up, sit up in bed and breathe in through your nose slowly and evenly. Hold for as long as you comfortably can, then exhale slowly. Do 10 of these, concentrating exclusively on your breathing. This will only take two minutes. Yet by starting your day like this, later on you’ll find it easy to become aware of negative thoughts or anxious feelings. You can then rebalance by taking another 10 mindful breaths.
Once mindful breathing becomes an ingrained habit, you can use it any time and anywhere. Then you really can live the life you want — only better.