It easy to get so caught up in our worries and in the busyness of our day-to-day lives that we stop taking notice of the world around us. We tend to live much of our lives on autopilot – worrying about the past or thinking about the future, or jumping from one task to the next without truly paying attention to what we are doing.
When we stop taking notice we stop appreciating the little things and we are more likely to focus on the negatives. Supporting someone who is struggling with their mental health can be a challenging experience and it is easy to lose sight of the positives. When this happens our stress increases, we are more likely to feel lonely and isolated, which has a negative impact on our wellbeing.
Mindfulness – or paying attention to the present moment, is associated with many health benefits. Research suggests that spending time each day being mindful (focused on the present and not worrying about the past or future) impacts our:
• Physical Health: Reduced chronic pain, headaches, blood pressure and cholesterol. Improved immune function.
• Mental Health: Reduced stress, anxiety, depression and substance use. Increased happiness and improved sleep.
• Relationships: Reduced arguments and an improved sense of connection.
• Work performance: Improved memory, improved operational effectiveness and reduced errors.
When we think of mindfulness we often think about meditation – and while this can be a form of mindfulness (and is covered in a separate tip sheet), it isn’t the only way that we can become more mindful.
Mindfulness can be as simple as consciously shifting your attention to the present, noticing what you are doing, how you are feeling and what is going on around you. It is about taking notice of your internal and external world and simply being present
Tips for Mindfulness:
There are lots of mindfulness activities and apps that you can download to practice with. However, you don’t need to use formal mindfulness activities to become more mindful generally and take notice of the present. For example:
• When you notice yourself being distracted, stressed, frustrated or rushing, RESET – take a four-second breath (two seconds in and two seconds out), and consciously bring your focus back to what you are doing now.
• Consciously do one activity each day where you focus all of your attention on the activity itself (instead of thinking about everything else going on in your life) – it might be drinking your coffee in the morning, sitting outside in the garden for five minutes at night, or focusing on the feeling of your muscles working when you are working out. Focus your attention on the actual experience.
• RESET or use your 4-second breath (2 seconds in, 2 seconds out) before you start driving your car. This will bring you back to the present and focus your attention on driving, rather than being distracted by your thoughts, plans or worries. This means that you will be better able to respond if anything unexpected happens while you drive.
• Before and after work, each day spend a couple of minutes sitting outside – focus your attention on noticing the sounds, smells and visually what you can see around you. Try and detect any differences from the day before
• Before you enter the house each night, ask yourself What’s Important Now? And consciously bring your attention back to the moment and what you are experiencing.
• Spend time in nature.
• Spend time with your friends and family – and when you are with them focus on being with them instead of worrying about something else.
• Put your phone or smart device away for an hour each day.
• Hunt the good stuff – research suggests that when we are more mindful we consciously pay attention to the positive things in our lives, our overall mindfulness and wellbeing improve.
Questionnaire – BE MINDFUL
The questionnaire is designed to be a quick self-assessments in relation to mindfulness. It is not designed to be diagnostic but will give you a simple indication of your strengths and opportunities for change.
(1 always or almost always, 10 never or almost never)
|I pay attention to the world around me and notice small changes in my environment?|
|I find it easy to describe my feelings and notice emotions in others?|
|I find it easy to stay focused on what’s happening in the present moment, rather than drifting off or getting distracted?|
|I rarely lose or misplace things (1 meaning that it is rare for you to lose things, while 10 means you lose things often)?|
|I consciously take time out to notice what is going on around me, and feel grateful for the small things in life?|
|In difficult situations, I rarely lose my temper and find it easy to pause without reacting?|
|I rarely find myself on autopilot while I am at work or driving – I find it easy to stay focused?|
|I rarely worry about the past or future (1 meaning that you rarely worry, while 10 means that you often worry)?|
|I generally feel quite calm, even when life seems stressful?|
|I find it easy to move on when I have made a mistake?|
If you scored:
10-30 Awesome!! You are doing really well in terms of your mindfulness and taking notice of the world around you. Look for any high scores to specific items for an opportunity to improve, otherwise, keep it up and look to the other 5 A Day pillars for opportunities to improve your wellbeing.
31-51 Well done!! You are doing lots of things well in terms of your mindfulness AND there are some opportunities to improve. Review the Be Mindful Tips and identify simple steps you can take to strengthen this pillar.
52 + Take a step back and look at what’s going on in your life and how you are feeling? Review your responses and consider how long you have been operating this way. Scores here could indicate that you are simply rushing, or are often absent-minded and could benefit from practising mindfulness activities to improve your focus on the here and now. However, high scores on this scale could also indicate that you are experiencing a particularly challenging time and might need some help and support. Is there something going on in your life at the moment, which means that your stress levels are higher than normal? If yes, it is important that you reach out and talk with one of your mates – Remember than a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are also feeling quite low, have lost interest in things and/ or hope for the future, or you have been finding yourself feeling worried or anxious much of the time, talk to your GP and the team at BOICO, and reach out to your family/ friends to let them know that you are having a difficult time.