Mindfulness: An explanation

Today I’m going to talk briefly on the subject of mindfulness. As I like to make the subjects I cover down to earth and jargon-free so that anyone can understand them, this will be in the same vein.


What is mindfulness? 

To start let’s cover what is meant when we say 'mindfulness'. It’s perhaps easier if we break it down into a couple of parts taking it then to be ‘mind’ and ‘fulness’ in our approach. Starting with ‘mind,’ it simply means our brain. Following with ‘fulness,’ you can think of this as when you eat a meal and you are now the opposite of hungry, you are full. But not in the way you might feel after eating a carvery meal when you might feel over full and perhaps even need a sleep afterwards. This is the kind of full that means we are engaged so completely in one task that there is no room for other tasks because we are full. 

Reconnecting the words ‘mind’ and ‘fulness,’ we can take it to mean then that our brain is focused on one task, to the point we exclude all other tasks and become almost connected to this task we are focused on to the point that we no longer in those moments we experience mindfulness feel our mental health issues, be that anxiety or any other mental health challenge we may suffer on a day to day basis. You could also think of it as almost a meditation and could find out more about that by looking into Buddhism and monks’ meditation practices for more information on what that might be like. But sticking with mindfulness, for now, let's cover some examples of mindfulness practice.

Examples of mindfulness practice 

You may have heard it has to be one thing or another and that some things may not be mindfulness practice etc. but all those belong in the realm of opinions, in that they are very individual views. Your mindfulness practice will also be individual, individual to you. Because let’s face it, we are all individuals and what one person does to relax from a long day in the office may not be relaxing for the next person, so it is important to get this right for you personally.

Have a think for a moment about what you like to do already and what you might like to do already that you do for long periods of time and before you know it you look at the clock and an hour has gone by or longer. For one person it might be knitting, another person might be auto mechanics, another person playing a musical instrument, another going for a walk, another photography. The point is these are all different things, all of which a person can lose themselves in for hours at a time.

Now what are some of the things you like to do already that might fit that bill?

Got some ideas? Great. Now how can you apply it?

With this, mindfulness can bring us back to earth, calm us, alleviate our symptoms and even dispel them altogether.

If mindfulness is being so involved in a task that we are not thinking about our anxiety for example, then does this mean we might not have thoughts about what we might be having for lunch, etc? No, it does not, we are still going to be really looking forward to that sandwich we have had our eye on for the last couple of days but what we are going to do is not think about the sandwich while we are working on the car, for example. If we get to a really tricky bolt that just won’t loosen off, we start to think about that sandwich all we do is bring our thoughts back to the tricky bolt, maybe we spray it with some WD40 to loosen it up a bit and carry on with the task at hand. This might sound simple, and it absolutely can be that simple but where we often get stuck is the ‘practice’ part.

Practice and mindfulness together is simply practising the above. So, if our mind starts to wonder to that sandwich, we simply refocus on the bolt. Every time we start to think about that sandwich we do the same refocus on that bolt. This is a mindfulness practice in action. Now I don’t suggest skipping meals and if you’re in danger of doing so maybe you can set an alarm to bring you out of your mindfulness come lunchtime so you can go and enjoy that sandwich but, essentially, this is mindfulness practice at a stripped-down accessible level that anyone can access. You can take it as deep as you like and apply it to anything you can achieve that state too, so long as it works for you personally.

Benefits of mindfulness

Lastly, let's cover some of the benefits. I will use anxiety as an example, but this can be applied across the mental health spectrum. If we are anxious, you may know we are in a perpetual state at times of fight or flight response to either a real or imaginary threat. When this happens, we are almost completely consumed by either fight or flight and from time to time freeze our response to anxiety.

The benefit of mindfulness is if we can cut through all that noise in our brain about what the danger is, we can calm our minds, we can focus on one thing or another and only that thing then we can ride out even our worst panic attacks or anxious moments. In this case, we may use our mindfulness practice to focus completely on our breathing. We can often hold our breath during anxiety, so it's important to remember to breathe – so what better way to do that than to mindfully breathe? In through the nose slowly and deeply, out through the mouth slowly and deeply.

In this moment, nothing else matters, only you and focusing on your breathing. We will get through our anxiety or panic attacks much more calmly than we might otherwise. We can shorten the duration of the attack, and even the frequency of the attack by practicing mindfulness. The reason being is that, with frequency, we will be practicing focusing on one thing and not on the ten things we might have to do that day which can often lead to stress and an anxiety response in itself if we are focused on all of the things in the day at the same time. 

With this, mindfulness can bring us back to earth, calm us, alleviate our symptoms and even dispel them altogether. We can use some of the methods outlined in this article to achieve our own state of mindfulness or we can go to therapy and learn some new tools there or seek out specific therapies that may lend themselves to mindfulness practice, such as and not limited to equine therapy for example. 

To conclude, mindfulness like most things, takes practice, but it doesn’t have to be difficult, and it can be tailored to your own needs. Have a think about how you can incorporate mindfulness into your life.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Leeds LS1 & York YO23
Written by Kai Manchester, BA (Hons) Integrative Counsellor MNCPS (Acc) Supervisor
Leeds LS1 & York YO23

Kai is a fully qualified Integrative Counsellor and Supervisor who works with individuals & couples both in person in private practice & online. Kai did his degree in Integrative Counselling at Coventry University and went on to do his specialist training in Equine Facilitated Learning at Athena Herd in Kent. Reach out today to discuss your needs.

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