Cathy Mandile will be leading us through an exercise in Mindfulness today. Cathy is a passionate advocate of people’s rights to receive support, hope and compassion through the darkest times in their lives. She is a professional counsellor currently working in the public mental health sector and has cared for many people with dual diagnoses of mental illness and substance abuse. Cathy is has been married for 31 years and has three adult children.
How many of us are stressed out?
Or maybe even experiencing intense anger, sadness, anxiety or fear? How about finding it hard to regulate our emotions at home, at work, in the supermarket or driving?? Tick!
We all can experience these at some stage in our lives.
Mindfulness simply means to choose and learn to control our focus of attention to the present moment without judgement. It does not conflict with any beliefs or traditions, whether religious, cultural or scientific.
It simply is a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells– anything we might not normally notice. Mindfulness skills help us to focus our attention when we are overwhelmed by strong emotions. It can help with how we cope with everyday life or deal with tough times, and there are great benefits for our physical and mental health. Mindfulness can help us choose how we want to ‘respond’, rather than ‘impulsively react’ to situations.
We spend so much time thinking over stuff that has happened in the past, or worrying about things that may happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens. When we’re mindful, it:
- helps clear our head
- helps us be more aware of our self, our body and the environment
- slows down our thoughts
- slows down our nervous system
- helps us to concentrate
- to relax
- can help us cope with stress.
- help manage depression and/or anxiety
- help us to be less angry or moody
- improve memory
- help us learn more easily
- help us to solve problems more easily
- make us happier
- help us to be more emotionally stable
- improve our breathing
- reduce our heart rate
- improve our circulation
- improve our immunity
- help us to cope with pain and
- helps to improve sleep.
How do we exercise mindfulness? The primary focus in Mindfulness is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, non judging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance. Mindful breathing:
- Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight.
- Direct your attention to your breathing.
- When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings or external sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them.
- When you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted and then gently bring the focus back to you breathing.
Colour breathing: This is one of my favourites. From these colours below, choose the colour relating to what you feel you need. You can name the colours anything you want but these are some examples.
Yellow – Peace.
Orange – Courage, Endurance and Strength.
Green – Hope.
Crimson – The presence of God, Love.
Brown – Humility.
Blue – Grace.
Purple – Forgiveness.
- Make yourself comfortable whether sitting or lying down.
- Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing.
- Anytime that other thoughts, images, sounds or sensations come to mind, just notice them and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing and your colour.
- Now visualise your colour. See it in front of you, over you, surrounding you. As you slowly breathe, become aware of breathing in your colour, into your nose, your throat, your chest and abdomen. Imagine now that colour spreading out within you and notice the effects that it has.
- Notice the sensations in your body as this colour flows into and spreads throughout your body.
- Anytime that your attention wanders, simply notice that it’s wandered, then gently bring your focus back to your colour.
- Whenever you are ready. Start to bring your attention back to the here and now, where you are. Open your eyes and look around noticing what you see and what you hear. Take a couple of breaths and notice the pleasing sensations that accompany this relaxing exercise.
You notice each gain of sand pass through your fingers.
You could smell the seaweed as it was washed up on the shore. Then, you looked at the beautiful sunset, the colour of the sky, noticing the clouds and how they seemed to shroud the sun as it went down.
You watched the waves come towards you noticing they get lost in the sand. You also felt the wind on your face and breathed in the coolness noticing your lungs being rejuvenated.
You may have thanked God for His creation and His marvellous works. You are relaxed and enjoying the present moment. Taking in deep wells of peace with each breath. Guess what …you just did an exercise in mindfulness. Using mindfulness to cope with negative experiences (thoughts, feelings, events). Examples of negative thoughts: I am hopeless; This is too hard; I am a failure; I need a hit. As we become more practiced at using mindfulness for breathing, body sensations and routine daily activities, we can then learn to be mindful of our thoughts and feelings, to become observers, and then more accepting of them. This results in less distressing feelings and increases our ability to enjoy our lives.
With mindfulness, even the most disturbing sensations, feelings, thoughts and experiences, can be viewed from a wider perspective as passing events in the mind, rather than as ‘us’, or as being necessarily true. ( Brantley 2003).
As we gain confidence in using mindfulness, we can use it even in times of intense distress, by becoming mindful of the actual experience as an observer, using mindful breathing and focussing our attention on the breathing, listening to the distressing negative thoughts mindfully, recognising them as mere thoughts, breathing with them, allowing them to happen without believing them or arguing with them.
Watch them lose their power as they fall away. If thoughts are too strong or loud, then we can move our attention to our breathing, or to sounds around us. Mindfulness takes practice, practice, practice.
Be creative with it!! Enjoy every moment you have, breathe and be thankful.
You will notice the difference!!!! Cathy….