Breathing. It sounds easy doesn’t it? After all, we do it every minute of the day. But mindful breathing is about more than staying alive.
By being mindful or ‘present in the moment’ MRI studies show that you can actually shrink the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for triggering the “fight or flight” panic response. At the same time, the pre-frontal cortex, which is associated with things like awareness, focus and decision-making, becomes thicker. The more you work out at the gym – the stronger your muscles grow – and the same is true for the mind!
Staying present in the moment can be easier said than done, especially with so many thoughts flying around our brains. So how do we learn to slow down and take notice?
- Mindfulness is about being aware and it takes practice to get it right. Don’t worry if your mind wanders to start with.
- You don’t have to cultivate any sort of monkish behaviour in order to be mindful. You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, and with anyone by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now.
- Know that the thoughts will always be there. During your practice you’ll often feel fidgety. It might even feel like a chore or a waste of time. The practice is about noticing all these things – and sticking with it.
- Try out the 10% Happier app. It’s designed for the “fidgety sceptic” and takes a light-hearted, humorous approach
- If you fall off the ‘mindfulness’ wagon, don’t beat yourself up. Just gently get yourself back on track.
- There are times when you wish you weren’t so aware. You’ll begin to notice a lot of previously hidden thoughts and feelings that aren’t always comfortable. Remain curious and try to sit with any discomfort you’re feeling.
Ultimately mindfulness practice is about being kind to yourself and allowing yourself the space and time to reconnect with the present.
For a longer read on this subject click here.