“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James
Mindfulness involves allowing yourself to fully open to the present moment with curiosity, acceptance and with non-judgmental awareness. Our minds are great storytellers ,they will easily keep us fixated on the past or the future if we allow it. The mind often gets filled with constant chatter and drama about our desires, fears, hopes, and mundane observations. Even when you feel you are not thinking about anything you may notice that when you truly turn your focus inward toward the mind, there is a flurry of thoughts present.
Much of this mental chatter serves to take you away from the present moment. The mind has the capacity to serve your best interest, but also has the capacity to become your own worst enemy, seemingly “luring” you into self-destructive behaviours. By becoming aware over and over again of the thoughts and images passing through the mind and letting go of them as we return our attention to the breath and the moment, mindfulness allows you to step back from those thoughts, and get some distance and perspective on them. When you have an anxiety-provoking thought about a dreaded outcome or worry over something you have done in the past, begin to say to yourself, “I notice myself having that familiar thought that makes me anxious.” When we do this, we often feel less of an emotional pull to take immediate action on our thoughts. The thought loses its strength. We may eventually come to realise that all thoughts are only mental events, thoughts are not facts and that the true you is the observer of those thoughts…you are not the thoughts themselves. By identifying and becoming familiar with our own habitual, automatic, unhelpful thinking patterns, you can more easily become aware of (and change) the processes that may lead us into downward mood spirals and stress.
Explore this mindfulness practice to un-hijack the mind:
- Begin by taking a single, deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Close your eyes, or keep them open. Notice your body where it is: the positioning of your body, and also how your body is feeling. If you’re feeling any tension, see if you can allow it to soften, adjust your body if needed.
- Begin to allow your awareness to widen a bit to notice the sounds inside your environment or outside your environment. Become aware of how sounds have a nature of disappearing and reappearing. Notice how your mind may provide a commentary on these sounds, or on your experience. Allow for this, acknowledge where the mind has gone and gently bring the attention back to the direct experience of sound as sound.
- When you are ready, gently open your eyes, noticing the visuals in your environment. Notice how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
Start to look at your mind with gentle curiosity and allow yourself to notice all that you find.
You can read Denise’s HSSCU articles below:
- ‘Introduction to Mindfulness’ here
- ‘How Mindfulness Can Help Us Through Challenging Times’ here
- ‘How Can I Best Take Care of Myself’ here
- ‘Meditate While You Walk’ here
- ‘Reconnect With Your Body’ here
- ‘Be Present for Christmas’ here
*Please note that Health Services Staffs Credit Union is not an expert on mindfulness techniques and that all above advice is from Denise Coleman, qualified mindfulness teacher and HSSCU scholarship recipient. Any views above are not made on behalf of HSSCU.
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