Mindfulness is an approach to life. It can prove equally helpful to us, both in our darkest times and in generally enriching our day to day lives . The last 10 years has seen mindfulness practice applied to many areas of therapy including stress management, child rearing, eating and depression. Increasingly research supports its positive outcomes and has established its value in improving and maintaining mental health and wellbeing.
So what is mindfulness?
The practice of mindfulness refers to purposefully paying attention to the present moment. This may seem very simple – and in many ways it is! However, for the majority of us this is actually very different from how we live our normal lives. We live in a stressful, high pressure society where our attention is split between many demands. How many times have you travelled to work without really remembering the route? Often we spend our lives on automatic pilot.
Part of being human is that we spend our time seemingly living mostly in our own minds and it seems like we are rarely based in our bodies. You may say, ‘well of course, I’m far too busy and that’s the best way to get things done’ but, In fact, we can miss a great deal when we are preoccupied by the next task or with past worries. We miss what happens in this moment, the pleasant sensory world around us. Being aware won’t necessarily take more time, but it could change your experience completely. Think back to a recent holiday or walk in the country. What was it like to take in your surroundings and notice – rather than rushing on to where you were heading?
How might mindfulness be helpful?
Living our lives on autopilot means acting out of habit – and this goes for thoughts and feelings as well as actions. Our minds can carry us away on familiar trains of thought and, before we know it, we are feeling blue or anxious. Mindfulness practice can help us to slow these patterns down so that, rather than being tossed on a sea of thoughts and feelings, we can anchor ourselves and choose how to respond.
This benefit of cultivating mindfulness can be helpful in your relationship with food too. Being in touch with the moment helps us to be in tune with our bodies and respond better to its needs. Being consciously aware, in the moment, can also help you make conscious choices around food rather than eating out of habit or in response to thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness helps us to observe emotions without trying to act on them by escaping, avoiding or changing. It has been demonstrated that mindfulness based interventions are successful in reducing emotional eating. Mindfulness strategies are also used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which further attempts to use these strategies, and others, to effect change in line with your personal chosen values.
Mindfulness is best understood by experiencing it. Follow this link to hear more. If you would like to try to use mindfulness to help you with managing your eating and weight, click here to find arrange a consultation with Dr Scholtz.