A client of mine recently said that he had come to realise that mindfulness is the exact opposite of what most people think it is; it isn’t about zoning out and shutting off everything around you, including your thoughts. On the contrary, it’s about awareness, of your surroundings, your body, your thoughts and emotions.
Mindfulness is an excellent form of self-care. It reminds us of the connection between mind, body and emotions and how one cannot be affected without the other.
As we rush around in our busy lives we are often unaware that we are stressed. We may experience a whole range of physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches that we don’t even realise are connected. Mindfulness draws awareness to the body through a body scan meditation and it’s surprising how often you discover areas of tension. Someone who comes to realise that they carry a lot of tension in their shoulders can check in with themselves throughout the day and a few gentle shoulder rolls can ease that tension and also make them aware of what situations trigger such tension. By recognising these signals as they occur we can take measures to prevent the situation from worsening.
Similarly, our thoughts often dominate our minds, playing on an endless loop of rumination, making us unaware of our surroundings or the moment we are in. Once again, mindfulness draws awareness to these racing thoughts and with time we can learn to acknowledge them and let them pass without becoming too involved. It also helps us to appreciate other more positive moments in our lives.
When it comes to difficult emotions, we can learn to approach rather than run away from them, to explore and accept those emotions, not resigning ourselves to them, but rather allowing them to be, thereby being better able to more informed choices about our next move. We can also celebrate the emotions of joy, love and hope.
Self-care is so important, but in order to know how best to care for ourselves, we need to become better connected.
Coming soon – self-care – how to set up a day of mindfulness.