What is Mindfulness? Breaking the myths of an important practice

Ever since I began my journey into Mindfulness almost two years ago, I began to realise just how important it is, to incorporate the practice into our daily lives.

The true essence of Mindfulness is to live fully in the present moment. That means when you are enjoying a cup of tea or coffee, you are fully focused on how it tastes, smells and how comforting it makes you feel. Mindfulness is essentially learning the art of self-awareness. The more self aware we are, the more we can recognise how we are feeling and then be able to manage our stress levels better.

The main technique used in Mindfulness practice, is bringing your attention to your breathing. Your breath can be used as the main anchor, when you have noticed that your mind and attention have wandered off, taking you away from the present moment. Our breath ultimately guides us back to the present while reminding us constantly that we are alive.

If you are currently training yourself to meditate, there are some common myths surrounding Mindfulness and meditation that I aim to break, in the next couple of points.

Myth #1 Meditation is a practice where you push your thoughts aside and only focus on your breathing.

This statement is incorrect as on the contrary, it is very normal for your mind to wander while you are meditating and you do not need to stop it (or worry about it) from doing so. Meditation simply allows us to become an observer and observe our thoughts, noticing when we start to dwell on any of them, and using this self awareness, to re-focus our attention on our breathing, thus keeping our mind calm.

Myth #2 Meditation is the only tool to help achieve Mindfulness

I would say that meditation is one of many tools, that can help us to stay in the present moment. Once you get used to conditioning your mind into remembering that your breath is your anchor, any time you feel overwhelm, you will be able to stop the feeling from escalating, and bring yourself back to the present moment, so that you can think more logically about the situation. There are also other concepts such as RAIN, and certain affirmations (compassion based Mindfulness) which can be also used.

Myth #3 I believe that I am in the present moment already.

We may often feel that we are living our lives in the present, without noticing that we are infact, operating in auto-pilot (or fight or flight) mode. This means that we become accustomed to performing our everyday tasks so regularly, that we forget to check in and notice how we are actually feeling after each task or action. Listening to a simple 5, 10 or 15 minute body-scan guided meditation, can help you take a step back from being on auto-pilot mode. You’ll begin to notice how much better you can perform the task at hand, when you are fully present.

Myth #4 Meditation involves only sitting in silence.

There are actually a multitude of meditations available, including ones for walking outside, storytelling and sitting in a chair! When you participate in a walking meditation, you are actively encouraged to notice and listen to the sounds around you, that you would otherwise miss.

Myth #5 Mindfulness is just another trend.

Having experienced the long term benefits of Mindfulness myself, I can say this is definitely not true! Through engaging in Mindfulness I have become better at adapting to and accepting situations that are out of my control (e.g. train cancellations, change of plans) and meditating on a regular basis has helped me to develop a feeling of calmness, which in turn, has also allowed me to notice when I start to feel overwhelm or stress from any situations. Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to be able to help support anxiety, depression and even chronic fatigue (as mentioned in The Little Book of Mindfulness written by Dr Patrizia Collard).

I hope you find this useful and see it as a reason to either begin or continue your journey into Mindfulness. It is a constant work in progress, but when you do start noticing the results, they will be life changing.

Disclaimer: Jemma is a certified Mindfulness coach and a Mental Health First Aider, and teaches weekly Mindfulness classes at MHFA England.

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