What is Mindfulness?
You may have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ being bandied around a lot in the media of late, its growth in popularity correlating directly with the ever increasing need to manage stress in our lives.
But what exactly is mindfulness and how can it help? Put simply, it’s all about being present in the moment. Not exactly a ‘life changing’ concept you might think, but you would be wrong. When was the last time you were truly absorbed in the moment, the here and now? If you are like most of us, you probably spend most of your time multi tasking; grabbing a sandwich at your desk whilst reading emails, going through your ‘to do’ list whilst you drive the kids to school, even working out how many hours before the alarm clock goes off as you make love! But how can we enjoy all the fleeting moments that make up our lives if we are never truly experiencing them? What good is there in making plans for the future if when we get there that future too is lost, harking back to how much better things used to be. How often do we hear parents reminisce about ‘when the kids were little’ wishing they had spent more time enjoying those early years instead of focusing on other, transient things.
As a hypnotherapist this ability that people have to use their imaginations to go outside of themselves and project into the future, or travel back in time, is something that can be utilised very successfully in trance. When clients wonder if they are able to be ‘hypnotised’ I tell them that any time they are not present in the moment they are actually in trance. When you are reliving that argument from last night and re experiencing those angry feelings all over again, or imagining how that mistake at work is sure to mean you won’t get that all important promotion, you are stepping outside of ‘now’ to project into your imagined future, or rehash mistakes from the past to create a negative trance state.
So why do hypnotherapists incorporate mindfulness into their work? Personally, I find that mindfulness is a focussed state of mind that helps us to enjoy life and accept ourselves just as we are. After all, isn’t that the nirvana we are all searching for? When it comes to finding true happiness, most of us have been looking for it in the wrong place. We won’t find it outside of ourselves, in a fancy new car or a designer handbag. Actually it is right under our noses, and if we take the time to be mindful we can smell it, feel it, touch it, taste it and be part of it.
Whilst hypnotherapy is a wonderful tool that harnesses the power of the unconscious mind to tackle problems and make changes, mindfulness makes a perfect bed partner, because it allows us to really focus on what’s important now, acknowledging all the other ‘stuff’ and just letting it go. When I think about mindfulness I’m reminded of the serenity prayer: “.... grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time….” Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who penned these words of wisdom in 1942 was ahead of his time in this thinking, which encompasses many of the principles that underpin modern day therapy.
If the thought of being present in the moment and becoming a detached observer of that endless, exhausting train of thoughts isn’t a big enough incentive to try being mindful, recent studies show that practicing mindfulness on a regular basis not only promotes mental clarity and a sense of peace, it also helps improve our physical health. By relieving stress it lowers blood pressure, aids sleep, alleviates gastrointestinal problems and boosts the body's immune system. The principles of mindfulness also help manage issues such as weight control, anxiety disorders and unwanted habits.
Mindfulness may have its origins in the meditative techniques of the Buddhist monks, but this is truly mind training for the 21st century. There’s no need for incense, chanting or crossed legs. All you need is a moment.
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