Anyone who has visited a book shop or department store in the last 12 months will be familiar with mindfulness colouring books. They have taken the world by storm, with adults and children alike enjoying them. But did you know that colouring in has been used in mental health wards for years to calm patients minds?
Whilst the mindfulness colouring in books now for sale may be new, mindfulness is in fact an ancient concept, found in a wide range of spiritual and religious traditions. Mindfulness is honoured in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, yoga, tai chi and martial arts. In modern times mindfulness is an evidenced based tool for improving psychological health.
So what exactly is mindfulness?
Think back to when you were a child colouring in…….your mind was focused on the pencil strokes, the colours, the lines, the patterns…….were you thinking about anything else while you were colouring in? Probably not. This is a perfect example of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the act of deliberately paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way – being aware, open and focused – aware of the full experience including your senses, thoughts, urges, impulses and emotions, as if watching from afar. Simply, mindfulness involves paying attention to whatever you decide to e.g. the feeling of water running over you in the shower or listening to your breath. Mindfulness can be practiced in any setting, wherever you are.
So what are the benefits of mindfulness and why practice it?
- A clear, alert mind space – mindfulness helps produce stability of mind;
- Flexibility of mind – with practice mindfulness can allow you to shift your complete focus to whatever you choose, rather than it bouncing haphazardly between a number of issues;
- Self-awareness – mindfulness can help you become aware of the contents of your mind, your thoughts;
- The ability to pay attention, live in the present moment and be openhearted;
- The ability to observe your thoughts for what they are and experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely;
- The ability to undermine destructive emotions and thinking patterns;
- Reduction in emotional volatility and an understanding that thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather;
- The ability to become less judgemental;
- An increased release of Dopamine in the brain;
- Self-acceptance and compassion.
Mindfulness can help to reduce stress levels, reduce physical pain, reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve sleep and increase life satisfaction
Now that we know a little about mindfulness it is time to practice – after all mindfulness is a skill that needs to be practiced. Mindfulness can be practiced formally and informally, however it is perhaps informal mindfulness that is accessible to most. During the following informal mindfulness exercises it is important to be gentle to yourself and kind. If your mind wanders that is OK, a wandering mind is all a part of learning how to be mindful! Remember, we are aiming for awareness, openness and focus.