Most of the time we're racing through life on auto-pilot. Mindfulness meditation is a great way of bringing your attention to the present moment, and learning to appreciate the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or future.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
By being fully present in this way – not trying to change your feelings or hide from them, but actually being with them, we create space to respond in new ways to situations and make wise choices.
Our mind instinctly tries to think of solutions to your problems – rapidly rummaging through your memories to find similar scenarios to see how you’ve dealt with similar feelings in the past. Mindfulness teaches you to simply accept your feelings, rather than trying to find ways of fixing them.
Research has shown that mindfulness practise in young people can help to improve well-being, reduce anxiety, distress, bad behaviour, improve sleep and self-esteem and bring about greater relaxation, awareness and self-regulation (Miners, 2008).
Mindfulness and exam results:
If you’ve just received your exam results and you’re feeling really stressed and anxious about your grades, try out the breathing exercise below.
By practising mindfulness, you’ll be able to explore what emotions you’re feeling e.g. anger, confusion and disappointment and what bodily sensations you’re feeling e.g. heart racing, butterflies in your tummy and heavy breathing. Once you’ve successfully acknowledged and accepted your current state, you should feel more relaxed and in turn be in a more positive frame of mind to begin thinking about what steps you’d like to take next.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, and are finding it difficult to relax, try out the well-known mindfulness breathing exercise.
1. Sit quietly in a chair with both feet on the ground and your hands in your lap. You can also do this exercise lying down in bed if you have difficulty sleeping.
2. Bring all of your attention to the physical act of breathing.
3. Start to notice the breath as it enters your body through your nose and as it travels in to your lungs. Notice whether the inward and outward breaths are cool or warm and notice where the breath travels as it enters and departs.
4. Don’t try to do anything with your breathing – simply notice it, pay attention to it and be aware of it. It doesn’t matter if your breathing is slow or fast, deep or shallow; it just is what it is.
5. You will start to notice that each time you breathe in, your diaphragm or stomach will expand and each time you breathe out your diaphragm or stomach will relax. Again, don’t try to do anything – just be aware of the physical sensations of breathing in and breathing out.
6. If you find that thoughts intrude, this is okay. Imagine your thoughts as clouds, acknowledge they are there and then let them float on by.
7. Once you’ve done this, gently bring your awareness back to your breath.
8. Repeat this exercise daily. The Mindful magazine have many more mindfulness exercises, so you could be a pro in no time!
Miners, R. (2008) Collected and Connected: Mindfulness and the early Adolescent. Dissertations Abstracts International: Section B. The Sciences and Engineering, 68,9.