On Being Mindful
Rachael Slack DHP MAPHP 31 Dec 2014
“Today I will make a list. I will focus on my goals. I won’t waste time on social media. I will make things happen”.
Does this sound familiar?
Today came and went. You didn’t make a list. There are no ticks on your checklist. You wasted hours of your life on social media. You have achieved nothing. Your goals and ambitions remain unfulfilled and you vow to do better tomorrow.
Tomorrow comes - and goes. Nothing changes. You start to feel like a failure and mentally beat yourself up for your inability to just get on with it. Before you know it, you are berating yourself for past failures too.
The cycle continues and you find yourself locked in a merry-go round of negativity. You desperately want to get off and find a way to move forward and make your dreams/ideas a reality.
“Things never go right. If only I could get a grip on myself “
Ever wonder why you can’t move forward?
In today’s 24/7 culture, it is easy to fall victim to the many distractions available to us. Social media, on-line shopping, satellite TV - they all help us to create diversions from the tasks we really need to complete. But there is an even greater force preventing you from focusing on what you need to do. Not only is this greater force preventing you from achieving your personal best, it is actively destroying your ability to live in the moment and enjoy life.
That greater force is your own mind.
Do you wish you could switch off that inner negative voice?
Does this sound like you?
“I just can’t seem to concentrate on anything”
“I’m so anxious. All I ever do is worry. It stops me from getting on with stuff”.
Take some time out and try this simple experiment …
Sit down. Switch off your phone and any other form of technology. Allow yourself just 2 minutes to focus on your breathing. When you have completed this exercise, pick this article up and carry on reading.
How many times did your mind wander away from your breathing? Maybe you heard a noise and couldn’t resist the urge to find out what it was? Perhaps a colleague or friend said something to annoy you and you found yourself brooding about it. Quite possibly, you just felt impatient, restless and bored.
You probably found this task more difficult than you thought it would be. Focusing the mind on one task isn’t easy. Our minds are so overloaded; we struggle to switch off for the shortest time.
You may find yourself thinking …
“I just know what will happen if …”
Visualise a situation where you have to raise a difficult issue or ask for something. Maybe you want to ask a favour of an acquaintance or ask your boss for a promotion.
Your imagination takes on a life of its own as you imagine yourself engaged in conversation with that person. You may feel anxious or angry as you think about what will happen – you just know what they will say to you. You may even enjoyimagining your response as you play the whole scenario out in your head – fantasising about how you will respond to their criticism or refusal. As the curtain comes down on the final scene, you decide that you won’t ask them after all. It was a silly idea. It would never have worked out.
Now take a step back. Do you really know would have happened? Would that person have reacted in the way you imagined? Maybe their response would have been different (and more positive) to how you assumed it would be.
Most of us can probably relate to this. It all sounds harmless enough, until you imagine how many missed opportunities occur because your own imagination has rejected the possibility that things could have worked out differently. Your negative thought process has hoodwinked you into believing that good things can’t happen to you; that things will never change. Suddenly, it doesn’t sound harmless at all.
The point where negative thinking becomes serious …
“No matter how hard I try to overcome my depression, I always seem to end up back at square one”.
This is the point at which the negative inner voice can wreak the worst damage, adversely affecting your health and wellbeing. If you have ever suffered a depressive episode, you will know it is difficult to overcome. When you hit that moment where your depression is starting to lift, ingrained thought processes and negative behaviours can limit your ability to recover. Worse still, you can find yourself slipping back into further depressive episodes or heightened anxiety states. You feel stuck on a permanent merry go-round of negativity.
Mindfulness can help you regain control.
When unwanted thoughts and negative behaviour patterns are holding you back from personal happiness and fulfilment, thereis a way forward. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MCBT) can help you identify negative thoughts and behaviours and learn strategies to combat them.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness isn’t just a new, trendy buzzword. It isn’t merely the ‘in thing’ for new age therapists. Mindfulness is a very real, accessible technique that you can learn. It is a technique that enables you to take control and move your life forward; helping you to set yourself free from the negative cycle that stops you enjoying life and fulfilling your goals. It is a suitable technique for people from all walks of life. The common thread that links them is a desire to take control and banish the effects of negative thought process and behaviours.
Why might we need mindfulness?
As we have already discovered with the 2 minute breathing exercise, paying attention to just one thing is challenging. We simply aren’t used to it. We very rarely focus on one thought or task at a time. Our thoughts take over.
Often our minds are on autopilot, randomly bringing up negative experiences and thoughts from the past – plunging our present into disarray. Missed opportunities, strained relationships and unfulfilled personal goals are just some of the undesirable outcomes of our own negative thought patterns.
Mindfulness can help you recognise your own thought processes and use strategies to take control.
How can mindfulness benefit me?
Mindfulness techniques can result in the following benefits:
Achieving your goals
Increased motivation and a sharper focus on tasks
Increased ability to make decisions and take action
Switching off from unpleasant thoughts and focusing on the present moment
Freedom from negative behaviours that hold you back
Feeling successful and in control
Patting yourself on the back at the end of the day
Living in the here and now; no more brooding about the past
Happier relationships and collaborations
Increased happiness, health and wellbeing
Feeling at ease within yourself
Be mindful in all that you do and you will learn how to be.
Wishing you a happy, healthy 2015.
Rachael Slack DHP LAPHP
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