I don’t know if you watched Redesign My Brain with Todd Sampson? I found it super interesting.
It’s an ABC series focused on how brain training can harness the power of the mind. Todd’s particular goal in the last episode of season 2 was about overcoming fear so he could skywalk between two buildings (NO thanks very muchly!).
He visited Wake Forest School of Medicine in the United States where there’s a bunch of work is being done around how “mindfulness-based mental training regimens affect pain and self-referential processing”, under the direction of Fadel Zeidan PhD (Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy). Todd underwent an experiment where he was basically hit by a plank of 4×2 and as you would expect, totally freaked out because it hurt. He was then taught mindfulness meditation techniques which he practised, while again being smashed by a big stick. Second time around he fared much better. He coped with the pain and was able to block it out to some degree. Fascinating stuff.
It’s weird but everywhere I look at the moment the concept of “mindfulness” is coming up. Clearly a message from the universe!
According to the dictionary, mindfulness is:
1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something
2. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them: The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
About ten years ago I suffered a short term bout of anxiety (for more about anxiety read one of our most popular posts, Taming Clive, the Anxiety Monster). Mine was sort of like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). My anxiety was a symptom of a delayed reaction to trauma. Luckily it went away and it was the only time I ever suffered from it but I understand how debilitating it can be.
I went to a counsellor who taught me about mindfulness. She told me to pay deep attention to the little things, like watching the soap bubbles on my arm when I was washing, feeling the toothbrush rubbing my gums while cleaning my teeth and watching the spoon go around as I stirred a sauce.
It was at this time that I started learning how to cook properly. The great thing about cooking is that you are forced into mindfulness. You have to concentrate on what you are doing, if you don’t you could chop off a digit or set the kitchen on fire. I think it is one of the reasons I love being in the kitchen so much. I find it very meditative and it keeps me centred.
Why I like mindfulness
I like mindfulness because in it’s simplest form it’s sort of like meditation. Without the meditation.
There’s a lot of information out there about meditation, Carolyn wrote a really fantastic post the other day How to Meditate: It’s Easy With This One Cool Trick. I am practising and getting better but I am still so rubbish at it. And being so rubbish does make me feel bad and then not want to practise because I don’t enjoy it. But I’m slowly getting there.
Mindfulness won’t really replace meditation as such, but it is like taking baby steps. At least it’s on the right path. For me what I like about mindfulness is that it’s an activity you can do anywhere and at anytime. You don’t have to sit on a yoga mat or find a quiet place. You can actually do EVERYTHING mindfully, it’s about living life in the moment. Even if that is only something you can focus on doing once a day. Just start somewhere. Baby steps, baby!
Here’s some cool ways to be mindful that you may not have thought about:
- The Mindfulness Colouring In Book by Emma Farrarons is so sweet! I got it for my birthday from my hubby and I love it.
- Have a look at the very beautiful and different Zen Tangle.
- Learn how to take mindful photographs with Capturing Mindfulness by Matthew Johnstone.
- Why not try going for a walk or a run without your music. Listen to the sound of your trainers hitting the ground, feel your arms swinging, observe your breath. Be aware of everything around you, listen at the birds, observe the trees, people and buildings.
- Listen to this 10 minute podcast.
- When stretching focus deeply into the area you’re working on. Take 10 slow breaths feel like you are breathing directly into your muscles.
Everyday mindfulness + meditation
- Eat at least one meal mindfully. Sit down and get comfortable. Have a really good look at your food. Smell it’s deliciousness. Concentrate on eating. Chew carefully, taste eat mouthful, savour your meal.
- Turn off your phone for an hour. They can wait! It’s a distraction and takes you away from being present in your everyday life.
- Be aware of your body and breathing for just one minute. Maybe even take some time out while you are having a cuppa. Breathe in with the thought: breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathe out with the thought: breathing out, I am aware of my body.
- Check out the Headspace Mindfulness App.
- Get into the Free Meditation Podcasts at the Hammer Museum.
Let me know what you think about mindfulness and meditation. Do you live mindfully?
Do you have techniques to help mindfulness? Have you tried meditation?
This is a super awesome post! I practice mindfulness in little ways. For example, when I take our dog for a walk, I’ll bring my phone (for safety) but it will stay in my pocket the entire time. He can totally sense when I’m distracted and actually gets pissed off when I’m on my phone! Same goes for when I’m spending quality time with my husband – phone gets put away. I think we feel like we need to be constantly connected with the world, but sometimes we just need to be connected with the person right in front of us… and even ourselves. x
No idea how I missed this post! I don’t meditate but I do try to live mindfully. I never really thought about the connection to cooking though, makes sense!
It doesn’t work in my house, Malinda, I’m always swatting children away and adjudicating arguments while I’m cooking!
Awesome post. I’m so glad ‘mindfulness’ has become vogue, it’s such an important thing for all of us. I’ve got that colouring book as well and I love it, so much fun & so good for helping to switch off my brain.
Yes! Great post, I love mindfulness. Doing yoga has definitely helped me to be present, slow down and to hinour my body and experiences x
Isn’t yoga brilliant, Jenni! I love it too.