In a break from blogs relating to physical fitness, we are taking a moment to look at another, equally important part of our overall health, our mental fitness – and how to maintain or improve it. In this age of 24/7 news and information, the idea of switching off for a few minutes is one that is increasingly attractive, but how do we do it?
A guide to mindfulness
For the past few years we have been more or less constantly bombarded with the idea of mindfulness. It’s sort of ironic that everywhere we look – Facebook, Twitter, online websites, health magazines etc – we are told to be ‘mindful’, when actually what we need to do is to stop being bombarded with instructions about mindfulness and instead be given time to be mindful.
What is mindfulness?
It is actually a concept that has been around for thousands of years. It has its more formal roots in Buddhism, but actually it is something that we humans do pretty naturally – think about when you stop doing a complicated task for a few minutes and go for a walk or make a cup of tea, that is just you clearing your mind to allow fresh thought in – that is Mindfulness.
To look at the idea of mindfulness in little more detail I turned to what is becoming one of my favourite fitness blogs nerdfitness.com and I have ‘borrowed’ some of their ideas to share here today.
This is what nerdfitness has to say:
“Mindfulness is just being aware of what you are doing, when you are doing it, and becoming a master of your mind, rather than being controlled by your subconscious impulses.
Even as you’re skimming through this article, how many other things do you have rushing through your head right now?
Thinking about what to cook for dinner?
How you should be working instead?
Did you already check your email?
Worrying about the future or dwelling on the past?
Our world and lives keep getting busier and more “urgent” (thanks to our phones and the internet), and as a result, so do our minds. Our thoughts and feelings are constantly moving from one thing to the next without a moment’s rest.
In fact, did you know our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time?
That’s right, nearly half of our waking lives, we’ve got our minds on something else. Yeah, physically I’m reading the same freaking book to my kids for the 80th time, but I’m actually on auto-pilot thinking about my work deadlines. The next day I’m at work trying to meet those deadlines, but I’m now mentally planning the weekend with the kids.
It’s like that YouTube rabbithole we’ve all been down. You might have started searching for “how to do a push-up” and then all of a sudden it’s 2am and you’re watching an instructional video on how to ride a unicycle and you don’t even own a unicycle.
We are in the age of RIGHT NOW and INSTANT, and we are distracted about every five seconds.”
Is mindfulness beneficial?
Of course, like nerd fitness, we are right to question concepts such as mindfulness but a whole range of evidence-based research has shown that mindfulness has a lot of health and psychological benefits , including stress relief, mood regulation, improving sleep, managing depression and anxiety, boosting immunity, reducing heart rate and boosting happiness.
How to practice mindfulness
It sounds simple but its deceptively hard to do. First, remove all devices from the immediate vicinity. Now whether you are sitting, lying down or walking around be comfortable with your body.
Focus on this moment in your life right now. Think about your breathing and what you are doing right now. Just start doing this for a few seconds. That’s it, you have just practised step one of mindfulness. Think of it as exercising the mind – with practice, you will be able to get into a state of mindfulness more easily and for longer.