Mindfulness is about paying attention to everything, starting with your own breath.
Yes, it’s the latest buzzword in mental health, but mindfulness – a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment and accepting and acknowledging your feelings and thoughts – isn’t a fad.
As electronic mediums encourage us to tune into the virtual world and ignore the real one, being able to learn mindfulness is becoming increasingly important for our wellbeing.
Ideally, mindfulness should be easy and enjoyable, requiring little or no effort. But many of us find our minds clouded by worry over money, family, health and social issues.
So how can we learn to practise mindfulness?
Yoga teacher and nutritionist Monica Moore from Moore Nourishing, a wellness consulting business based in Bowral, New South Wales, says everyday there are multiple opportunities to do “spot” meditations.
“Like anything, mindfulness practices need to be accessible and doable. Tiny, incremental actions that build over time, subsequently making an impact and cultivating patience and kindness in our lives,” Monica says.
“Find pockets during the day to put yourself in front of something beautiful – in the garden, or in nature – to literally stop and smell the roses.
“Alternatively, ask yourself, ‘What do I see, feel, smell, hear?’ This is the essence of mindfulness practice; simply checking in with yourself whenever and wherever you are.”
Monica says that by integrating this practice into your day, you will help keep your body relaxed and be able to process your thoughts and emotions more efficiently. This is all that it takes to meditate, or be mindful.
So, who does it? Is it only for people who drink kale juice and go to yoga?
Sabina Vitacca, the Director of Melbourne-based business Meditate Now, says absolutely not. Mindfulness is for people of all ages, states of health, religions and races.
Sabina’s journey into mindfulness began when she was a child. “When I was 12, my mother left our family and my world turned upside down,” Sabina says.
“I went from being in a strict Italian family to one that was held together by a father who had fallen apart, had no idea what to do with teenage kids and was supported by an older sister.
“At the time, my aunt provided me with a guided meditation tape. I am so thankful as this supported me with my stress levels and helped me to make sense of everything.”
Sabina says that mindfulness offers greater clarity, helps us focus, makes us less distracted and encourages us to be compassionate towards ourselves and others.
“When we practise mindfulness we have less expectations or desire to try and change the external, past or future; it’s all about the present – what’s happening in the moment. It’s about igniting passion in simplicity,” she says.
“Most importantly it makes us happy – even with the simple things and grateful for what we call life.”
In the moment
Start the day on your own terms – have a screen-free bedroom so you don’t look at email or social media until you have spent five minutes sitting, breathing, noticing what is going on in your internal life.
Take five conscious inhales and exhales and notice how your body responds.
Turn your mobile phone, often an enemy of awareness, into something useful. Set a vibration alert to go off a few times a day. It becomes an awareness trigger to pause and practise a few moments of mindfulness.
Put mindful notes in places that you visit during the day – the bathroom, your office, or car – as a reminder to take a moment to check in with yourself.
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Melbourne Meditation Centre offers basic introductory courses in mindfulness in Melbourne and Geelong. Sydney Meditation Centre offers introductory and advanced courses and Moore Nourishing in New South Wales offers wellness programs.
Who: People of all ages
How: Focus on your breathing, what you’re eating, the sounds around you, or the way you’re feeling in a particular moment
Why: In 2013, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the United States sifted through nearly 19,000 meditation studies and found that mindfulness meditation helps ease psychological stresses such as anxiety, depression and pain
Where: Anywhere you can find a quiet space to connect with your inner self. Try it in noisy spaces too