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.
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.