It can be easy to rush through life without paying attention to what is going on around us. If we took the time to pay more attention to the present moment – to our own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around us, it can improve our mental health. We call this self-awareness “ mindfulness “. It can help us enjoy life and have a better understanding of ourselves.
So what is mindfulness? It means knowing what is going on both inside and outside ourselves moment by moment. It’s very easy in this day and age to stop noticing the world around us. Isolation and lockdown have meant we have spent a lot more time “in our heads” caught up in thoughts and emotions without stopping to notice what is actually driving these thoughts and emotions. Part of mindfulness involves us being aware of our senses, taste, smells, sounds, and sights that are happening right now around us! We should be able to connect our minds to our bodies and become aware of how these things affect us.
Another part of mindfulness is being conscious of our thoughts and feelings moment to moment, this allows us to see the present far more clearly. If we can do this it will enable us to make positive changes in the way we see ourselves.
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. We stop taking things, people, and relationships for granted. We can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that they are simply “mental events” and do not control us unless we let them. We can ask ourselves one simple question “ Is sitting brooding over this thought going to help me solve anything?”
So how can we help ourselves? The first thing we can do is to really start taking notice of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the world around us. All this can sound very small but by doing so we can hopefully interrupt the “autopilot” mode we often engage day today and change the way we look at things. Mindfulness is not about stopping thoughts go away, it’s about being able to recognise if they are harmful, dealing with them, and just seeing them as what they are, thoughts and not necessarily reality. One way to see it is to imagine you are at a bus stop and lots of thought buses are going past but that doesn’t mean you have to get on any of them. Nobody is saying this is easy at first, but with patience and persistence, you will get there
Jimi D Katsis is a Bristol based consultant psychotherapist at jimikatsis.com specialising in recovery from trauma, depression, and anxiety