Mindfulness can help us notice the world around us more and better control our thoughts.
This is important because the nature of modern life means that it is easy for us to get stuck in our heads and to stop noticing the world around us. Once this happens, those thoughts can drive our emotions and behaviour without realising it – often in unhelpful ways.
There are two things you can do to be more mindful. The first is to be aware of your thoughts and feelings as they happen and challenging them. By doing this, you can positively change the way you see yourself and improve how you feel.
The second is to pay attention to your body and what it experiences. This means being in the present by paying attention to the moment’s sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.
Five tips to help you live in the moment using mindfulness
Reminding yourself to notice your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the world around you is another step to being more mindful.
Here are five ways to do that.
1. Notice the everyday
As you go about your daily life, try to notice the sensations of everyday things. For example, the food you eat, the air as it moves past you as you walk.
This may sound very small, but it interrupts the ‘autopilot’ mode we often find ourselves in.
2. Schedule it
Pick a regular time to be mindful. For example, the morning journey to work or a lunchtime walk. During this time, make an effort to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you, like noticing the birds singing.
3. Try something new
Small things like sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch can help you see the world in a new way.
4. Name your thoughts and feelings
Normally when we have unhelpful thoughts, they appear in our head and drive our feelings and actions. Usually, we don’t notice this happening.
When you have an unhelpful thought, try to name or acknowledge it. For example, “here’s the thought that I might fail that exam.” Or, “this is anxiety.”
Naming your thoughts can help you to develop an awareness of them.
5. Free yourself from the past and future
If you are finding yourself trapped in your thoughts and constantly reliving past problems or worrying about the future – this is the time to practice being mindful. So stop and give it a go.
When worrying about the past, we are worrying about something that has already happened and cannot be changed. When we worry about the future, we are worrying about something that may not even happen. Instead, try and live in the present by practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be hard
Mindfulness is a tricky concept to get. But the tools in this email can help you to give it a go. This is about finding what works for you as an individual, so if it doesn’t work, move on.
Don’t spend time worrying about worrying.
Being aware of thoughts and feelings
What we think and feel affects what we do. Unhelpful thoughts can develop negative patterns that lead to unhelpful feelings and actions. This can become a vicious cycle. But what many of us don’t realise is that we can influence this process and improve our wellbeing.
To deal with these unhelpful thoughts, we need to recognise them and challenge them. With practice, this can help us look at perceived problems in a different and more accurate way.
For example, you might be worried about something important you have to do for work. You might be convinced it will go wrong, and everyone will think you’re a failure. Rather than immediately accepting this thought, and feeling even worse, take a moment to challenge it. Find evidence for the thought and evidence against the thought. Ask yourself what you would tell a friend if they were thinking this way. Your evidence must be completely factual, don’t make assumptions or use opinion.
Finally, based on the evidence you find, see if you can develop a more balanced alternative thought. So rather than thinking that you will fail this important work, your alternative thought could be, “I’m prepared, and I’m going to do my best, my last piece of work was complimented.”
Sometimes you will be able to change the thought to a positive one, but don’t worry if you can’t. There are no right or wrong answers. It’s about learning to think more flexibly and be more in control. By challenging your thoughts with evidence for and against, you will come up with more balanced thoughts.
To help with this, we have created a downloadable sheet that you can use to help challenge your thoughts.
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