“Mindfulness” has become quite a buzzword in the West in recent years, but in fact it is an ancient Buddhist concept in origin, based on the Zen Buddhist idea of bringing the mind’s attention as fully as possible to everything we do. The alternative is that we do things on “automatic pilot” while thinking about something else, or “multi-tasking”, whereby we attempt to do a number of things at once without focusing on any of them fully. This can lead of course to things being done halfheartedly or inefficiently, to forgetfulness, and even ultimately to confusion and stress.
In the past few years mindfulness training courses have been developed in the USA and Britain to help people deal with such stress but also with issues such as depression and anxiety. Many Cognitive Behavioural Therapists have also adopted mindfulness practice, as indeed have therapists of other disciplines, as a way of helping us to look at how the negativity caused by our experiences can manifest itself, for example, in the body as a tangible pain, or in the mind as negative thoughts or low mood. By observing mindfully and non-judgementally how we experience these aspects of depression, we can begin to respond more compassionately to our feelings and state of mind.
Mindfulness is also a very effective way of dealing with anxiety, as it grounds us in the present and brings us back to what we are currently experiencing, rather than getting lost in our imaginings about the future, which so often generates anxiety. It also introduces us to simple meditation techniques which can be very calming. Mindfulness training often begins by helping us to focus on the simple things in life which we almost always do on automatic pilot, such as breathing, moving and eating. Incidentally, learning to eat mindfully can be particularly useful for someone who has an eating disorder or at least a difficult relationship with food.
The training goes on to help us embrace difficulty, to take pauses and breaks in our busy lives and to extend kindness to ourselves and others. Thus doing a course can be very useful (see http://mindfulnessmk.com/ for a really good local course); alternatively, you may prefer to work on a one-to-one basis with a counsellor or therapist who can address your personal issues by bringing mindfulness techniques into her work with you; please contact us if you would like this one-to-one help.