Somehow I Manage, Vol. 3

So I’m a bit late this week. To be honest my life was a bit hectic over the weekend, and I’ve got a lot of college and extra curricular stuff on my plate at the moment so I’m running a bit behind, but I’m getting there. Slowly but surely.

Regardless, I’m back. Cup of tea by my side. A cover of Your Hand in Mine by Explosions in the Sky playing, not the original because I wanted a slight change and I enjoy the raw aspect of it. A few mistakes scattered here and there amongst the three and a bit minutes, but it makes it unique. It has its imperfections, but those imperfections are what makes it great in a way.

I’ve actually gotten to the stage where I start to look forward to writing my blog. Sitting down. Taking a moment for myself; listening to some good music and truly indulging in my cup of tea. I get into my zone, and that is what this week is about. Getting into the now, because you may not be aware of it, but in this day and age, we’re always so preoccupied with what’s going on in our life that it’s seldom that we slow down and just embrace one singular moment.

MINDFULNESS
I remember when I was first introduced to mindfulness. It was my first class of CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and I was actually looking forward to it. It sounded like the meeting with the therapist would help me a good bit, and I was hopeful.

And believe me, mindfulness has helped me so much. I absolutely love it. It’s honestly amazing what a few minutes of it could do to you. Relax you. Ground you. My first meeting, I wasn’t sold on it. The way it was thought to me just wasn’t for me. And that’s the case with a lot of mental health skills. No one way is right. No one way works for everyone. A lot of things may need tweaking here and there to have the best and most positive effect for you. You have to find what works for you, and then keep doing it.

My first day, I was told what mindfulness was about. This proceeded into me being handed a raisin, and being told to examine it for two minutes like it was something I had never seen before in my life. Don’t get me wrong, it helped me, it grounded me and I felt relaxed after it. So in theory mindfulness worked for me. But the method behind it was something that I found ridiculous. This method may work for you but I wasn’t really having any of it. I got told some skills to practice, such as chewing my food 50 times before swallowing it, and trying to eat using a knife and fork in my non dominant hands. I wasn’t sold on the whole methodology, even though it worked for me. So I didn’t practice, and I missed out.

I’m going to run through what mindfulness is and then give some things that I do, how they help me, and how I have even helped friends with. So bare with me, and keep on reading.

Mindfulness in a quote is ‘Learning to be in control of your own mind instead of letting your mind being in control of you’. And to be honest, I love this quote because it’s something we should recognise, and something we fail to recognise a lot of the time.

Mindfulness is basically about choosing to focus your attention on the present moment. We can’t always control what comes into the mind, but what we can control is what we focus on. It’s a way of being in the present moment. So we bring our awareness back from the past or the future to the now.

HOW DO YOU DO IT?

Well first of all, before doing it, there’s a few things to keep in mind. The first and probably most important one is being non-judgemental. You’re not meant to evaluate it as being good or bad when you do mindfulness. You stick to the facts, you don’t make opinions of things floating through your mind. And you don’t judge the emotion as good or bad. Basically, if something pops into your mind when you’re being mindful, for example if a car drives by you and you notice it, say to yourself, that car drove by and I observed it and took notice of it. Not that car interrupted my mindfulness, stupid driver. If you get my feels.

Another thing is do one thing at a time! Focus on one thing at a time. Concentrate your mind; when you’re eating, just focus on eating, the texture, the taste, the movement of your jaw as you chew it. If you’re looking at a flower, just look at the colours, how it’s structured, how it moves in the wind. If you choose to worry then just worry.

And do what works effectively. Like I said above, looking at a raisin was something I found ridiculous. It did work and relax me, but I didn’t buy into it so I wasn’t going to practice it. So find what works for you, whether that’s looking at a raisin, listening to music, or watching the trees. Find what works for you and stick with it! Focus on what works for you. Act as skilfully as you can. It’s not about doing what’s right, it’s about doing what you need to do to be effective in your life.

You may feel all relaxed during mindfulness, and it’s a great by-product of it. But it’s not what it’s about! It’s an active process that allows us to control where we put our attention.

HOW CAN IT HELP YOU
It happens to a lot of us, and believe me, it happened me a lot during the many sleepless nights of my life, but have you ever had a situation where something went wrong in college, or work, or life and you just couldn’t get it out of your head all night? Mindfulness doesn’t get rid of the unpleasant thoughts or emotions – but it allows you to choose when you want to think about them and attend them.

Mindfulness can separate us from our urges; it helps us to become more aware of what out emotions urge us to do and then make a choice on where to act on them or not. No therapy or medication will prevent unpleasant or sad things from happening in our daily lives. We cannot build resilience without experiencing unpleasant feelings. Mindfulness helps to create a distance between ourselves and our distress, allowing us to observe it and choose what we do next.

Mindfulness can be a complex skill to grasp, it took me weeks till I got the proper hang of it, but once you grasp it, it’s a huge asset to have. And a pleasant one for that matter. But it will take time and practice in order for mindfulness to become useful in your life.

HOW WILL YOU DO IT
So there’s both external and internal practices for mindfulness. There’s no goal to achieve essentially, other than bringing your awareness.

Observe
For example, external observation would be focusing on an object, a shell for example. Internal observation would be focusing on our breathing, on the breath going in through your mouth, down your oesophasgus, into your lungs and noticing your chest inflate and deflate as you inhale and exhale.

Most people notice that once they start observing something, they can’t observe anything for too long and their mind wanders off. You could even start thinking about something else. The thing to do now if just notice that your mind has wandered and gently try and return it to your chosen focus.

Describe
So you apply word/labels to what you observe. Describing only what you observe, not adding any judgement or interpretation to it. For example, external describing could be describing the room you’re in based only on the facts. Or internally describe your thoughts, whether past thoughts or future thoughts and label your emotions without judgement.
Fun fact, research shows that describing your emotions can lower their intensity. More the reason to talk about how you’re feeling too!!

Participate
The aim of these practices is not to turn you into effective meditators, but to help you live each day more mindfully. This means completely throwing yourself into the current moment, into the current activity. When we participate mindfully, we don’t allow the running commentary of our mind to take away from our moment to moment experiences. It’s like when I used to play rugby, once I was playing a match it didn’t matter what happened before or what was going to happen after the match. I was focused on playing and doing my job, and I was mindful without even realising it.

PRACTICE

Doesn’t matter where you are, at home or in college or whatever. You can still practice mindfulness. Rather than carrying out an activity on automatic pilot, try and focus on knowing what you are doing as you are doing it. And remember to be non judgemental and do one thing at a time.

There’s no right or wrong way to do these practices. Whatever happens, and if your mind wanders, just notice that it wandered and try and refocus your attention to the task at hand.

Just try any task and try and describe in detail what you notice, whether that’s brushing your teeth, having a cup of tea, showering, eating, music etc.

And notice what’s happening, if you’re listening to music, can you listen without agreeing or disagreeing, liking or disliking, or judging the music? Can you notice how your mind and body feel. Can you hear those background sounds that you may not always hear?

For me, I just do a short periods here and there every day and it keeps me grounded. If that’s taking the first sip of a piping hot cup of tea, listening to the sound of the traffic while walking to college, or just looking at the clouds, try it. Try and focus. Try and notice it. Try and live in the now for a bit, it’ll be nice.

Even I went for my first run in years on Saturday night. Being a full time smoker it didn’t help my fitness, but I was pretty happy with how far I ran. But after I finished 3km and stopped, my lungs crying out for oxygen I was in the moment. I was mindful. I was focusing on my breathing, it was all I was thinking about. and it was great.

Even a friend came to me with their anxiety up and a lot going on in college during the week. I told him to YouTube 5 minute mindfulness and try it out. And it calmed him down, it helped him focus on the now instead of worrying over the past and the future. So try it yourself. Try the above examples I used, or just try a guided mindfulness on YouTube. Just try. And I hope it helps.

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Enjoyed this article, check out the other 2 editions written by Adam Finn, our Events’ Officer.