Mindfulness is ‘in’. Everyone is talking about it. From executives trying to improve their work performance to parents trying to build resilience in their kids.
But what does it mean?
The Oxford Living Dictionary defines mindfulness as a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Life is busy.
It can be hard to fit everything that we need to do in a day, let alone everything that we want to do. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do more and be more. It’s no wonder that we end up stressed and burnt out. Research studies suggest that the practice of mindfulness can reduce stress, improve resilience, increase emotional regulation, enhance performance, and improve relationships and overall wellbeing. And while the scientific evidence seems a little shaky in areas*, no one ever thinks of Buddhist monks or free-spirited hippies as being stressed or burnt out.
With this in mind, I joined a couple of friends in the Mindful in May program by Dr Elise Bailylew which aims to create a daily practice of mindfulness and raise funds to bring clean water to those in developing countries. Now the concept of mindfulness and meditation is not new to me, but it’s not something that I have tried to incorporate into my daily life … until now.
I’m a working mum with 3 kids aged 3, 5 and 7. My days are generally filled with work, after-school activities, homework, dinner, housework, and finally a bit of downtime once everyone is in bed. To be honest, I’d prefer to read a trashy novel at the end of the day than do mindfulness ‘homework’. But like all good students, I have persisted in doing the daily meditations (if not the interviews). Some have really resonated with me, like those by psychologist Rick Hanson which have been more specific and practical. Others have been less ‘light bulb moment’ - think meditation at the end of a yoga session (I may have fallen asleep a time or two). It just goes to show that the practice of mindfulness comes in different forms and what may be helpful for one person, may not be so for another.
It’s only week 2 of the program and my implementation of mindfulness into daily life is still very much a work in progress. And while I don’t see myself meditating in a field of flowers anytime soon, I can certainly see the benefits of taking a few minutes to stop, take a breath, and reset. Even if it is only for a moment before chaos erupts and another day begins.
The next step will be to try some mindfulness mojo with my kids …
*NOTE: A review published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the level of evidence regarding the benefits of mindfulness does not live up to the current hype. This is largely due to the differing interpretations of the meaning of mindfulness, the lack of a standardised practice, and the use of self-reported questionnaires rather than randomised controlled trials. People that have a mental health condition, should seek treatment from their psychologist, GP and/or psychiatrist and discuss if a mindfulness program would be an appropriate addition to their management plan.
The Happiness Plan by Dr Elise Bailylew
What if you could train your brain to experience greater happiness, focus, and emotional balance in daily life? What if it took just ten minutes a day? Drawing on her background in medicine, psychiatry and mindfulness meditation, Dr Elise Bialylew offers a roadmap to a happier life.