A Guide to Mindfulness

Author: Huw Jones
Published: 22nd April 2020

I’m going to outline what mindfulness is, what the benefits of mindfulness are and how you actually go about doing it.

What is mindfulness

To understand what mindfulness is we need to have a quick look at the mind. The mind only likes to live in two places: the past and the future. In fact, the mind loves these places so much it doesn’t really like the present. There’s just nothing much for it to do there.

To experience the present the mind needs to be quiet – but it doesn’t want to be. So we need to train it to sit quietly while we experience the present. That is the aim of mindfulness.

With the volume of our mind turned right down we can listen to our feelings.

The present is now. Right now. It’s always right now. At every moment it’s right now. That last right now is in the past and only this right now is in the present (although now it’s in the past).

The only thing that exists in the present is the breath. Breathing in and breathing out is always happening right now. Whenever you notice it – that’s the moment of right now. That’s the present. And if you’re noticing your breath right now, your mind is not thinking about the past or the future. Mindfulness is concentrating all your attention on the breath as it enters your body and leaves your body. Breath after breath after breath. Mindfulness aims for you experience the present but the mind has other ideas.

When Mindfulness goes Wrong

When you’re focusing on the breath the mind will get jealous. It will fire thoughts in from the past and future. It wants to get back to its safe place. Your moment in the present will be gone. That’s OK. As soon as you notice, you go back to the breath. Mindfulness trains us to notice when thoughts have pulled us away from the present. Once we’ve noticed all we have to do is bring our attention back to the present – bring our attention back to the breath.

That’s why mindfulness is called a practice. It’s always a work in progress as we strive to quiet the mind for a short while.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Scientific studies have shown many benefits of mindfulness. It can decrease stress. In fact it has been shown to improve mental health and it can even help with depression. It promotes better self-control by increasing awareness. This can help in creating new habits and reducing unwanted behaviours.

Mindfulness has been shown to improve sleep generally. But you can also use mindfulness at bedtime to help you go to sleep. You can calm a racing mind during the night by forcing it out of the past and future and back into the present.

Mindfulness can lead to increased energy levels, focus and improved memory capacity. This might help us exercise more, be better at work or just be a nicer person. These claims are backed by scientific studies.

How to do Mindfulness

Well, you can just sit quietly with your eyes closed concentrating on your breath. As you breathe in and breathe out just focus on the breath. If you’re like me you’ll feel self-conscious at the thought of this let alone actually doing it.

I found it much easier when I had a guide. There are several mindfulness apps out there. The one I use is Calm and it’s a website and smartphone app. You can put your headphones in or listen to it out loud.  There’s lots of different mindfulness sessions that you can do. And I find it really, really useful.

If you feel like checking it out there is a free 30 free trial here.