image

Mindfulness myths explained

The term mindfulness – have you ever wondered what it really means? Could it help to get us through the Covid 19 pandemic situation in which we all find ourselves? Eugene Farrell, AXA PPP healthcare’s psychological health expert, certainly thinks so.

Mindfulness is an awareness of being 

It teaches us to focus our mind on the here and now, to be aware of the space we are moving in, to concentrate on ourselves in that space, to reconnect with our body by paying attention to all that is going on at the present moment.  This awareness of being allows us to notice and change what we are doing now rather than dwelling on it or even regretting it later.

It’s all too easy to function without noticing much – mindfulness can help to bring calm and grounding into our lives.  Eugene Farrell explains:

“So many of us are guilty of forgetting to take the time to slow down and live in the moment.  Some of us then anxiously fret about past or future worries so much so it makes us unwell.  Our mental well-being is so important and many feel that mindfulness can help us to better cope with these troubles.”

A great deal has been written about mindfulness and there can be some confusion around what it means.  Eugene Farrell helps us to understand some of the myths that have grown up around the practice.

Is there a difference between mindfulness and meditation?

Meditation is when you actively put some time aside to do something that is good for you, and there are all types of meditation.  Mindfulness is twofold: it is a general awareness of the world and also a formal meditation practice.  Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular forms of meditation.

Mindfulness enables us to focus our mind on our experiences in the present moment and so concentrate on positive thoughts instead of negatively worrying about past or future concerns.

Silent meditation can help us make sense of our thoughts.  Through our breathing, we can take notice of our stream of thoughts and feelings and allow them to flow without letting them control us in a negative way.  We can learn to be more aware of our body too and the sensations of things around us.

We often lead our lives on ‘autopilot’ and so mindfulness can teach us how to actively notice life’s sensations such as taste, touch and smell. If we learn to notice these small things they can help to switch off our ‘autopilot’ and so give us new positive perspectives on life.  Once we learn to really ‘notice’ our surroundings then it can lead to experiencing things in a renewed and non-critical way.  Trying something new, such as not sitting in our usual chair or taking a different route to the park, can also help us to notice the world in a new way.

Being totally in the present helps to energise us and allows us to enjoy and value things more; like our family, relationships, holidays, food and so on.  A great way to train to do this is through practising raisin meditation. This teaches us to learn to experience things, such as eating, in a different way.

Buddhism and Mindfulness

Practising Buddhism cannot be achieved without mindfulness but it is a spiritual way of being, dealing with happiness, sorrow and attachment.  Mindfulness, however, can be practised quite well without Buddhism.

Mindfulness uses breathing to focus the mind and appreciate all that is around us, allowing us to notice but to let go.  It can help us to deal with our problems by recognising how our thought patterns affect our thinking.

Incorporating spiritual Buddhist practices into mindfulness or practising mindfulness without the spiritual side is a personal choice – mindfulness can benefit everyone, no matter what the approach.

Can mindfulness only work in complete silence?

It is certainly beneficial to have a peaceful area to practice mindfulness, especially for a beginner.  Sitting in a quiet space, away from all the bustling of life can make it easier to concentrate on the space you are occupying and your body and feelings than if you were in busier surroundings.  However, you can also incorporate mindfulness into your day by being mindful of any sensation.

For instance, when you’re walking upstairs appreciate how the banister feels under your hand, when you sit in a chair think about where on your body the chair is touching or when you leave an area or a room look behind you and notice where you’ve been then where you are going.

Eugene explains “we need to wake up to the sights and sounds of the present moment; being aware when things happen helps us to understand and appreciate more.”

Incorporating mindfulness into the everyday

Is our mental well-being only affected by mindfulness?

Our mental well-being can be helped by practising mindfulness but research has shown that mindfulness training might also increase brain function. The University of Massachusetts Medical School conducted an eight-week programme which showed that the type of brain tissue linked to learning, memory, the way we regulate emotions and how we see the world increased after mindfulness training.  In addition, eight separate areas of the brain were shown to have increased with mindfulness through a 2014 review study at the University of British Columbia.

Along with being beneficial for our minds, mindfulness may play a part in helping with physical conditions such as heart disease, IBS, chronic pain and addiction.

Can mindfulness make rapid gains?

Mindfulness can be practised at any age.  It’s free and easy to do but it does take a little training to get the most out of it.

It’s like developing any skill, the more practice you put in the better the results.

Mindfulness can relax and comfort us.  Eugene explains:

“Most of us spend most or all of our day skipping from one thought to another.  We daydream.  We think about the past and worry about what’s to come. We self-analyse and self-criticise. Mindful practice calms the mind and when we feel ourselves drifting into negative thoughts to focus on our breathing will make us feel calm again.  A calm mind can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”

Mindfulness isn’t the answer to everything and the mental health charity Mind suggest that if you have deeper issues that don’t improve after mindful practice then it may not be right for you.  However, if you’re just struggling to find time in your day or to practice mindfulness by yourself then a course might be the answer and there are plenty to be found online.

Disclaimer
All content on Silversurfers.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated at all as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Silversurfers will not be responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content on www.silversurfers.com and we are also not liable for the content of any external websites or links from or to Silversurfers to any other websites. Please always consult your own doctor if you’re in any way concerned about any aspect of your health.

Have you got a health question?

We've teamed up with AXA PPP healthcare to bring you articles, information and tips from their clinical teams on a wide range of health topics. And if you have a question of your own, their, "Ask the Expert" service allows you to ask the team of friendly, experienced nurses, pharmacists and midwives about any health topic and they'll get back to you with an answer as soon as they’re able.* So if you have something that’s been bothering you, whether it concerns you or someone close to you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Click below to submit your query online.

ASK THE EXPERT

* Nurses are available 24/7, 365 days a year. Midwives and pharmacists are available Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday, 8am to 4pm; and Sunday, 8am to 12pm.
Actual response time will depend on the nature of your enquiry and availability of appropriately qualified experts but the team will always aim to get back to you within 24 hours.
Please note that our Expert Help services are there to offer health information and support. They do not diagnose or prescribe, and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice given in the context of an individual consultation.

 

The following two tabs change content below.

AXA PPP healthcare

The more you know about your body and how you can look after it, the healthier you are – and the stronger and bolder you become. That’s why we never stop looking for ways to support your health. We want to give you the tools and knowledge you need to take care of yourself – so you’re ready to face whatever the world brings.

Latest posts by AXA PPP healthcare (see all)

Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!