Creating a Mindful Environment

Creating a Mindful Environment

 

People can increase their mindfulness in everyday life, through activities like meditation and yoga, or even by simply paying more attention during regular activities like walking, driving or something as basic as brushing your teeth.

 

What does mindfulness involve?

 

With practice, you can learn to slow down or stop brain chatter and automatic or habitual reactions, experiencing the present moment as it really is.

When practicing mindfulness, everyone, however much they practice, will experience thoughtslearning to be mindful. Everyday mindfulness creeping in to their heads uninvited. This is fine – it’s just what brains do, but how we respond to these thoughts is important.

If we start to think about the thought, or get annoyed with ourselves for not being able to retain our focus, it stops us paying attention and takes us away from the present moment. If we just acknowledge the thought and let it go without judgement, we retain our focus on being in the present moment.

As with all new skills, the more we practice it, the easier it becomes. Canadian psychologist, Donald Hebb coined the phrase “neurones that fire together, wire together”. In other words, the more we practice mindfulness, the more we develop neuro-pathways in the brain associated with being mindful, which make it easier to be fully in the present moment.

By learning to experience the present moment as it really is, we develop the ability to step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events, see things as they really are and respond to them wisely rather than on auto pilot.

The most recognised and researched modern forms of Mindfulness are MBSR & MBCT. MBSR & MBSR are normally taught as 8 weeks programmes with participants meeting for 2-3 hours a week as a group, and home practice in-between meetings. Participants are taught a number of specific meditation practices proven to help reduce “brain chatter” and respond more appropriately to thoughts and feelings. Most MBSR / MBCT training includes a body scan exercise, two sitting meditations, walking meditation, gentle stretching and body awareness exercises, a three-minute mindfulness meditation.

 

Source: mindfulnet.org

 

Here are a few key components of practicing mindfulness that Kabat-Zinn and others identify:

 

  • Pay close attention to your breathing, especially when you’re feeling intense emotions.
  • Notice—really notice—what you’re sensing in a given moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness.
  • Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are fleeting and do not define you, an insight that can free you from negative thought patterns.
  • Tune into your body’s physical sensations, from the water hitting your skin in the shower to the way your body rests in your office chair.

 

To develop these skills in everyday life, you can try these exercises used in Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR program and elsewhere:

 

  • The body scan, where you focus your attention along your body, from the toes to the top of your head, trying to be aware and accepting of whatever you sense in these body parts, without controlling or changing those feelings.
  • The raisin exercise, where you slowly use all of your senses, one after another, to observe a raisin in great detail, from the way it feels in your hand to the way its taste bursts on your tongue. This exercise is intended to help you focus on the present moment, and can be tried with different foods.
  • Walking meditation, where you focus on the movement of your body as you take step after step, your feet touching and leaving the ground—an everyday activity we usually take for granted. This exercise is often practiced walking back and forth along a path 10 paces long, though it can be practiced along most any path.
  • Loving-kindness meditation, involves extending feelings of compassion toward people, starting with yourself then branching out to someone close to you, then to an acquaintance, then to someone giving you a hard time, then finally to all beings everywhere.