your brain and mindfulness

2 March 2015

Mindfulness – I know – it sounds like some otherworldly brain-universe-smoothie bullshit, but I implore you to continue reading despite the bad first impression. Mindfulness is possibly one of the most powerful (and scientifically backed), life-enhancing approaches I’ve ever come across. It’s used by psychologists in treatment and has been shown to be beneficial for people suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, hypertension, addictions and even chronic pain. But I think it’s something that could enrich everyone’s lives, and something everyone should know how to utilise. As to what it actually is, mindfulness is simply a way of attending to the present moment without judgment.

We have so many things going on, so many sensations and thoughts that we ignore and avoid because they’re weird, unpleasant or inconvenient. However enticing, avoidance rarely results in anything good. For example, avoiding that essay that’s due in two days. Just thinking of doing it kick-starts that sick feeling in your stomach. So you suppress and continue scrolling through pages and pages of drivel on the internet. You’re not enjoying this normally relaxing activity. It’s guilt soaked and dressed with anxiety. You want to start the essay, you know you have to, but you can’t. You’re overwhelmed by maybe’s and could-be’s and but’s.

Mindfulness tells you to sit and concentrate on what’s going on in the present, without letting your mind wander. Acknowledge the bad things as well as the good – they’re just feelings, they’re just thoughts. Focus on your breathing, use it as an anchor. What is your body doing? Are there aches, itches or tingles? This is fine, they’re allowed to be there. What emotions, images or thoughts are streaming behind your eyes? Let them come without judgment. Mindfulness is a type of consciousness built upon questioning, sensing, acknowledgment and letting go. Not surprisingly, this promotes well-being as well as improved functioning.

Doing this is challenging and takes consistent practice, but oh my goodness is it worth it. I would highly recommend seeking out mindfulness meditation groups if you’re feeling out of control, or even talking to a psychologist about these techniques if you feel you need clinical help. If you’re like me and enjoy doing something with your body while working on your mind, look into yoga or martial arts like Tai Chi. The control over your body needed in these sports creates a similar focus to that of mindfulness, and damn do you get strong. So use this brain-universe-smoothie sounding bullshit to your advantage, especially with assignments and exams around the corner. Everything is going to be alright.

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