Staying present can be difficult. We often become caught up in our thoughts and lose touch with what is happening around us. This can make us vulnerable to common difficulties such as anxiety, worry and depression.
Mindfulness is a basic human quality and we all have the capacity for it. It allows us to bring awareness to our "here and now" experiences. Through mindfulness, we can learn to pay attention to what is happening in the body, our minds and our emotions. Very often we are caught up in ‘doing mode’; which is the opposite of mindfulness. In the doing mode, we tend to analyse, problem-solve, plan and rush around. Whilst the doing mode is helpful for certain areas of our lives, it can lead us to be “out of touch” with our emotional wellbeing. This can mean we are more susceptible to feeling low or anxious. When we are mindful, (also known as the ‘being mode’), we are able to live more fully in the present moment rather than being drawn into regrets about the past or fears for the future.
Mindfulness is developed through the practice of meditation. This is a process where we direct our attention in a particular way, and increase our awareness of moment to moment experiences. It engages all of our senses as we open up to our unfolding experiences. We become aware of our body, our minds and emotions and the environment around us. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced in a number of formal and informal ways and can be experienced at any given moment. As such it is helpful to consider it as a way of being, or a way of life rather than a technique. The attitudes which we bring to our difficulties are very important. With mindfulness we learn to approach our emotions and our problems with an attitude of openness and non-judgemental awareness. Through commitment to practice, we can learn to become more connected to our selves and our lives and change the relationship we have towards our difficulties.
There is a body of research supporting the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing anxiety and stress, improving mood and coping with chronic physical symptoms including pain. It is also used as a relapse prevention strategy for people recovering from depression.
If you are interested in this approach you may find it helpful to access this link.
There are also various texts available on mindfulness including:
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (includes Guided Meditation Practices CD) (2007) by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, & Jon Kabat-Zinn (Available through the Book Prescription Scheme)
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World (Paperback) (2011) by Mark Williams & Dr. Danny Penman
Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic [2nd Edition] (2007) by Jeffrey Brantley
Mindful Eating 101: A Guide to Healthy Eating in College and Beyond, 2006 by by Susan Albers