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What is mindfulness?

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What is mindfulness? Mindfulness in its simplest terms means getting out of your head and into your life. It means paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, free from judging thoughts that say it's good or bad, right or wrong. As long as you live in thought, you really are missing out on the precious present moment experience.

Modern life is full of distractions. Many people have so much on their minds in any given moment that they run on autopilot. They are busy planning the future or reviewing the past. We are constantly thinking about the next thing we need to do. With hand-held technology it is a common sight to see people with their heads down staring at their phones.

Mindfulness itself is a way of being in the moment with pure awareness. Being in the moment means you are not void of thoughts, it means you just notice that thoughts come and go but they have no real impact on you missing out on what you can experience through your senses right now. We are all born mindful, but we lose the capacity to pay attention in a purposeful way. Mindfulness is something you can practice until it's something you are.

Mindfulness is about teaching yourself to be more aware of your body, your emotions,  your mind and the environment. It is about being right here, right now with focus and the ability to make better decisions about where you place your attention. It brings the mind and the body in synch with each other and allows you to be more accepting and compassionate towards yourself and other people.

If you struggle with a concern, mindfulness can help you cope better with a range of conditions including chronic pain, stress, depression and anxiety so instead of being overwhelmed by our thoughts or emotions, we can manage them better. The practices and exercises are simple to learn and can become part of everyday activities such as eating and breathing.

The techniques draw on the breathing exercises commonly used in meditation and yoga but differ in intention of the practice. It is not a new age or hippie in nature to practice mindfulness. It's not about 'spacing-out', vegetating or going into an altered state either. It is about pure awareness of what is happening right now, independent of your thoughts  and judgement and it takes practice to make the distinction. It doesn't mean we cannot achieve things, in fact, being mindful means you can achieve more without depleting precious mental energy on worrisome or stressful thoughts.

In fact, the US military offers marines mindfulness training before they are deployed, in recognition that it is an effective form of mental discipline. The principles and practice of “mindful leadership” are taught at Harvard, while Oxford University’s dedicated Mindfulness Centre is carrying out research into its clinical and general health benefits. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance for the NHS has recommended Mindfulness therapies for recurrent depression since 2004, but is not widely available through the NHS.

As we move into more of a frantic world with the pressures of modern living and multi-tasking, mindfulness can provide you with a the space to become more balanced to meet the demands. For more information about Mindfulness based courses in the West Midlands, contact Brenda Bentley, certified mindfulness teacher at the Midlands Mindfulness Centre based in Leamington Spa. Website http://www.bemindfuluk.com or telephone +44 (0) 1527 853 424 or +44 (0) 794 880 1229.

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