It’s a term thrown about A LOT but what does it Mindfulness actually mean and most importantly, how can it help you have a better, happier life? For me, it’s helped me overcome years of anxiety and panic attacks, helped me find calm – even when my ideas and thoughts are racing – and helped me find focus to move forward in my work.
Mindfulness means ‘maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment’.
In theatre, we called a similar activity ‘being present’. So why is it important?
Here’s my thoughts: 90% of our daily activities are governed by our subconscious mind. It helps with your breathing, your heartbeat etc. It’s incredibly important as having to consciously remember to breath would become incredibly arduous right?
It’s also involved in that bit of the day where we drive somewhere and we’re not sure how we got there….You know that one? Yes. That was your subconscious or ‘autopilot’ steering the wheel.
Many people I’ve spoken too also feel that they are living most of their lives on autopilot. Some call it ‘Groundhog Day’, other’s just state ‘same old, same old’ and with other peopls I’ve chatted with, they’ve described the feeling as ‘being asleep’ or explained that they’ve felt more like observers of their own lives, rather than conscious active participants. They’re going through they’re going through the motions, rather than consciously steering the wheel. I felt like that too, until I had some challenging life circumstances that made me kind of ‘wake up’ and wonder:
WOW: Where did I go? How long have I been there? Why have I been reacting to my life rather than steering its direction CONSCIOUSLY??
Don’t get me wrong: our subconscious is incredibly valuable! It help shapes our behaviour, our beliefs systems, our personality and our life choices and is the realm of our creativity. However, not every message locked away in our subconscious is one that positively serves us. Some of our programming can be effected by negative influences and environments as much as positive, so being a conscious participant in our own lives gives us the ability and POWER to alter our mindset and make mindful choices about our presence and our present.
When I was an observer of my life, rather than an active conscious participant, I didn’t really care about what I looked like, what I ate, how I treated myself and how I let others treat me.
I felt like seaweed, drifting with the current, going nowhere in particular. When I woke up and became aware of what was going in my life, I became VERY active in it.
I started learning to like myself, respect myself and look after myself better.
I started eating better, I had the courage to say NO and had the confidence to articulate that in some circumstances, the way I was being treated was unacceptable.
Mindfulness through meditation, became part of my daily practice and now, I can control anxiety attacks and stress without medication, purely with the power of my mind.
Mindfulness is about paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judgement—without believing there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in any given moment. When I feel the symptoms of anxiety, I don’t ‘freak out’ anymore: I have the confidence to isolate what the trigger was and deal with it in a calm and rational way. And by doing so, the anxiety subsides.
When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. We let go of anger and control and allow ourselves the space – even amongst chaos – to find peace.
I work with Masterchef Ray McVinnie every Tuesday and one day I walked into film a TV show with him and he asked me what was wrong – as I was unnervingly calm!!! It was because I had spent time on mindfulness.
So what is it? For some it’s the practice of meditation. I’ve tried this – guided meditation works well for me and I access that through Youtube every day. I also use a series of gratitude questions to help me find my calm – basically, it’s whatever you need to do to find your inner quiet calm space. It could be a walk beside the ocean.
It takes as long as you have. Some people practice for an hour a day. I’m grateful if I can grab 15 minutes. It’s like re-setting your mind and body PLUS it gives you the opportunity to fill your mind with messages of success.
You can find helpful meditation and mindfulness exercises on Youtube, iTunes or via downloadable mindfulness apps.
And finally, here’s my gratitude questions. Give them a go and hopefully you’ll become ‘unnervingly calm….’
- WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?
- WHO DO YOU LOVE?
- WHY ARE YOU HAPPY?
- WHAT ARE YOU COMMITTED TOO?
- HOW COMMITTED ARE YOU?
- WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?
- WHAT IS YOUR WISH?
- WHY ARE YOU HERE?