What is Mindfulness and how could it help during Lockdown (or anytime).
The current Covid-19 lockdown situation in the UK and around the world, is seeing our day to day lives turned upside down. Routines and daily tasks have had to stop or at least, the way we undertake them adjusted, affecting our mood, motivation and connections with others. As well as the comfort and stability we find in relevant certainties and structure. The unfamiliar and uncertain world we are now placed in, can cause our anxiety to increase. We are living outside our norm. This is why I have written this blog post. A 5 minute escape from reality. It may speak to you in a helpful way, it may not. But you may find in it reading it, you have just been present and mindful for 5 minutes, before you can go about your day.
Mindful. Org uses the definition of ‘Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us’.
‘Mindfulness is a quality that every human being already possesses, it’s not something you have to conjure up, you just have to learn how to access it’.
Mindfulness is the psychological process of actively bringing your attention to the present moment. Sitting with your feelings and being at one with your senses. How does your body feel? What can you hear or smell? These practices can be fine tuned through the use of meditation, in which there are lots of YouTube links and apps such as Headspace for you to try. This is a means to reconnect with our bodies and to the sight, smell, taste and touch of the present moment, when it is so easy to race ahead, forward thinking and concentrating solely on the future, of what ‘may’ be, leading to catastrophising thoughts and rumination.
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre explains that ‘ It is easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour’.
Maybe this is a place to start.
This link will take you to the mindful attention awareness scale, which is a 15 item questionnaire that researchers put together to allow us to see how mindful we are. The higher the score the higher your ability to be mindful. If it is lower than you’d like, maybe it’s a great time to start practising some mindfulness techniques.
Meditation is a great start and is where the key principles of this psychological process have evolved. But being mindful doesn’t have to just be during the 1 hour session a day that we may meditate. It is great to bring a more formal approach to mindfulness into our daily life including meditation, yoga and tai-chi, however once the techniques have been discovered the process of mindful thinking can be integrated into your daily routine. Activities such as colouring or drawing, walking or running, mindful eating and body scanning. This allows us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings, identifying patterns of thoughts that are not productive or helpful. With practice, we can begin to have a heightened sense of awareness and ability to notice when thoughts are taking over and that we do indeed have control over these thoughts, they do not control us. It can allow us to acknowledge when we experience feelings of stress and anxiety and subsequently deal with them proactively. It is a way of escapism. It is not ruminating on the past nor worrying about the future.
Keeping to a routine to some extent can be useful during these uncertain times. It can give us back a sense of control and purpose for each day, therefore helping with our overall mental wellbeing. Maybe you could try and allocate a certain time during your day to be mindful, keep that slot a regular fixture and keep it up. These are unprecedented times, however the benefits to mindfulness are relevant during a global pandemic or not. I just felt that now more than ever, these techniques could become helpful. For people who have possibly never experienced anxiety before or usually feel they manage their stress levels well and feel now that their coping strategies are being called upon to an extreme, without the possibility of being able to do some of the things that usually help us to cope. This is a new way, a new string to the bow. An option to draw upon in a toolbox collection that may be expanding during this time. Try new things, embrace some of this extra time that we have right now, to potentially take new skills back into the old world again when this is over.
In saying this, I have found during lockdown I have placed what I see now as ‘pressure’ on myself to use this time to better myself in some way. To learn a new skill, exercise, bake, read, keep busy and not ‘waste’ a moment. However, it was in the slowing down that I realised how it is OK to pace myself, to do nothing and become OK with just being. Mindfulness has really
helped to slow me down. To allow me to be in the present and focus on myself. Life is about balance. We need structure and routine but not so rigid that restricts us to also rest and feel OK with doing so. Some busyness in my life is used as a distraction away from my thoughts and feelings, I wonder who can relate? I have now learned the importance of also reconnecting with my body, with my feelings and thoughts and the outside world. To sit and to notice. It has helped ground me when things have quite frankly been overwhelming. I have noticed shifts in my mood from one day to another and have become more aware of feelings building.
The two take away thoughts from my lockdown experience that I’d like to share is the importance of connection and speaking with others, through whatever means that may be. Be that family, friends or a professional counsellor, like us at BrainHub. It is so important to talk about how we are feeling.
Secondly, how mindfulness is a developing skill that we could all utilise and benefit from. That it is OK to have days where you feel you are doing nothing, you may be doing more than you think. If any of this interests you, you want to know more or want to know how we can support you through these testing times and beyond, then please get it touch.