Updated: Aug 10
I’ve recently talked about the importance of self-compassion and some ways you could start to practice this. I mentioned 5 ways to practice self-compassion as:
I’m focusing each of these over five posts to give a little more detail about what it is and ways to introduce the practice. Yesterday was slowing down, today is mindfulness. The two go hand in hand and compliment each other perfectly when trying to turn your compassion inwards.
Mindfulness…..It’s quite a well-known term that is regularly used, particularly within the well-being arena. When terms like this become commonly used, they often lose their meaning and impact and can become dismissed.
Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the founders of the mindfulness movement. He defines mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
I love this - particularly the non-judgmentally part. How can we show compassion if we’re constantly judging ourselves?
There are times when I do things on autopilot and afterwards, I struggle to recall what I’ve done or how I’ve ended up where I did. Have you ever driven somewhere and can’t remember how you got there? Or devoured a bag of crisps and afterwards thought ‘Where the heck did that go?’ (usually for me, it’s followed by ‘I wasn’t even hungry!’). How about typing or writing something and a completely random word appears on the page that wasn’t intended? This is ‘autopilot’ and not at all paying attention with purpose.
Mindfulness is a way of being - not another thing to add to your to-do list. It takes intention and consistency but doesn’t have to be arduous. It can be as simple as focusing on one thing, the thing you’re currently doing, at any one time.
A mindful life enables you to have more appreciation for the now, and an awareness of your thoughts - this is what helps you notice and challenge your negative self-narrative.
With regular practice, you can adopt a more positive, helpful inner (compassionate) voice. Try, for example:
> Focusing on one thing at a time - Multi-tasking is the route to a mindLESSness life. Your one thing can even be simply breathing.
> Noticing when you’re not present - This often means you’re worrying about something in the past that you can’t change, or turning over in your mind a future event that hasn’t happened yet. When you notice this, create one point of intentional focus. Actively choose one thing to focus on.
> Being curious about what is going on - not judgemental - Ask yourself some intentional questions such as; How am I feeling? Where are my thoughts going? What can I see around me? What can I hear?
> Taking conscious breaths - Noticing your breath has many many benefits, but one is that it grounds you mindfully in this moment. Take a deep breath now.
A lot of people think of meditation when they hear ‘mindfulness’, and of course this is one of the ways to create a more mindful life. But it isn’t the only way. You can choose to be mindful at any time, anywhere.
To initiate this as a habit, you might want to think about other things that you do regularly to help you trigger a reminder to ‘pay attention’. Perhaps a certain time of day (first thing, lunchtime, or last thing for example), or other activities like - when you’re doing the washing up, or brushing your teeth. These things we do all the time can help become reminders to ‘notice’.
Can you be mindful 100% of the time? Well, unless you’re a Buddhist monk, I very much doubt it. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed at all. Being mindful is an ability to notice when you’re not being present, and reminding yourself to pay attention. This is often the confusion with meditation. Even in a short meditation practice my thoughts wander off continually, especially if I’m stressed or overwhelmed. I practice noticing when this happens, and turning my focus back to my breath. Over and over. That is not doing meditation ‘wrong’. That is meditation.
And the same goes in everyday life. Mindful practice is the practice of paying attention. It creates awareness of your thoughts, your feelings, of reconnecting to your body and your mind. It helps you be aware of your responses, your reactions and behaviours. It is noticing where you are in this present moment and of all else that is present with you.
Being more mindful is certainly one way to tune into the language you use towards yourself and it unlocks the ability to speak with more compassion. But being mindful has so many other wonderful benefits - it helps you live in a more fulfilling, nourishing way and it brings deep connection to the present. It enables a positive attention to your own well-being and helps reduce stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
We could all use a little more mindfulness in the world.
To really connect with your well-being and learn to prioritise your self-care, I offer a 'Back to well-being' programme to help you go back to basics, here.
Gemma Brown is an associate certified coach with the International Coach Federation, working with people to navigate successfully through transitions - be it career, relationships or life in general. Her belief is that when we confidently bring our whole selves to all areas of life, anything is possible. Transitions exist in both our personal and business life, and so often, the two fiercely overlap. Coaching with Gemma focuses on you as a whole, enabling you to identify your strengths, build confidence and to live a life with increased purpose and direction. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as 1-2-1 coaching via Skype and Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page or contact her directly.