Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. This doesn’t mean you have to clear your mind of all other thought, rather that you simply pay attention to what is happening in that moment.
When we don’t consciously pay attention to what is happening around us, our brains go into a kind of ‘default mode’, where we operate on autopilot. When operating in this mode, we experience greater mental chatter: our minds will wander and we tend to worry about the past and future while ignoring the present. This leads us to experience the world more through thoughts and fears than through our senses. Mindfulness helps us to return to the present by tuning in to our senses so that we can be fully present.
Why is mindfulness important?
There is growing evidence that mindfulness has many benefits for both our physical, mental and social wellbeing. In addition to reducing stress, anxiety and depression, practising mindfulness can improve emotional stability and increase positive emotional states. For children, improved academic and cognitive performance, as well as increased empathy, compassion and creativity are just some of the benefits of regular mindfulness practice.
Regular mindfulness practice also changes our brains. Research shows that just like when we practise a skill like playing the piano, with regular mindfulness practice, our brains develop and strengthen new neural pathways. After a while, we can even start catching ourselves in ‘default mode’, and when we do this, we have already started becoming more mindful. The less time we spend in ‘default mode’, the weaker these neural pathways become and the easier it is to stay mindful.
How to practise mindfulness throughout the day
A simple exercise to bring you back into the moment, involves tuning in to your five senses. This is a simple exercise that you can try out anywhere and at any time during your day. Here’s how:
Before you begin, take three deep breaths to focus and calm your mind. Then, tuning in to your five senses, list:
This little mindfulness exercise will become easier the more often you do it. It is also a great exercise to try with your child or students in your class.
For more mindfulness tips and tricks, visit our Mental Health Week resources, and download our free gratitude journal now!