What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the dual action of being more aware of how we are physically and mentally interacting with the world. The appreciation of this can bring us a lot of calm because we can then appreciate some of the quality of the natural world around and in us and also appreciate the thoughts and emotions they generate.

It’s 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.

In mindfulness we try and reconnect to our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means recognizing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the smell of a hedge as we pass by.

The awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment, allow us to see and experience the present moment with more clarity and positive emotion.

Here are four simple exercises to try and connect with your surroundings:

Mindful breathing

This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time.

To start with just focus on your breath for just one minute, if you enjoy it then try a little longer, but probably not more then 10 minutes.

  1. Start by breathing in and out slowly, it normally help to slowly count to 3 (in your head) as you breathe in and then 3 as you breathe out.
  2. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, relaxing ever more as you exhale.
  3. Let go of your thoughts. Just let your mind wander, but don’t think of anything.
  4. Consciously think of your breath, focusing your sense of awareness on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with life.

Mindful observation

The exercise is designed to connect us with the natural beauty all around us.

  1. Choose a natural object from within your environment and focus on carefully observing it for a few minutes. It could be a tree or an insect or even a clouds.
  2. Concentrate on its observation and try and imagine you are looking at this object for the first time.
  3. Carefully look at all the details you can, and think of its place in this natural world and its purpose.

 Mindful listening

Find some music you are not familiar with.

Put on headphones and close your eyes, ignore the genre and try and allow the music to wash over you.

Investigate the music by listening to each instrument, try and analyse what instrument is creating what rhythm, and how they work together to create a chord.

Treat the vocals as another instrument and separate it out and find its meter and how it follows the instruments, you might need to listen to it several times to fully explore.

Mindful appreciation

In this exercise, all you have to do is notice four things in your day that you take for granted.

The point of this exercise is to mentally give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life, the things that support our existence, but we rarely give them a second thought.

Some good examples might be: the architecture of the buildings in your road, the fridge that kept your food fresh, the birdsong on the walk to the train station…

  • Have you ever properly acknowledged how these things benefit your life and the lives of others?
  • Have you ever thought about what life might be like without these things?
  • Can you appreciate their finer details ?
  • Did someone else create them for the benefit of others ?

Try to identify 4 different things every day for a week, write them down and try and take time to reflect on their existence and how they support your life.