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What is mindfulness and how can it help me?

We live in a high pressure society. In fact, the average adult in the UK encounters around two hours and 28 minutes of stress each day, which equates to six years and seven months for females and six years and two months for males in a lifetime. With so much stress we can often feel out of control and unable to cope. But what if there was a way to keep calm and relaxed when you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious?

The wandering mind
Mindfulness is based on the principle that our thoughts control how we feel. So, if you spend lots of time thinking about negative things then as a result you will feel lots of negative emotions. Our brains also spend lots of time thinking about things that haven’t yet occurred just yet which can make us feel anxious or worried, and also thinking about things that have already happened which can make us feel sad, angry, regretful or depressed.

Our minds are constantly wandering and according to some research we are only focused around 50% of the time such as when we are completing a mathematical problem or washing the dishes. So can mindfulness help us to feel more engaged and focused in the present moment?

Becoming focused
Mindfulness is derived from eastern practices which have been used for thousands of years to help people reduce their worries, stress and pains, whilst simultaneously helping them improve their concentration, creativity and health. What’s more mindfulness doesn’t require you to join a programme, read any books, download an app or part with any cash. You simply need to be willing to dedicate a small amount of time to it each day.

For 10-15 minutes find somewhere quiet and begin your mindfulness routine. Sit up with your back straight, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing either through your mouth or through your nose. Concentrate on your breaths, in and out until the 15 minutes are up and your timer goes.

Most people find that it is incredibly difficult to keep their brain concentrated like this. However, you shouldn’t be disappointed if that happens to you. It should be your long term goal and will come with practice. When your mind drifts you should note that it has drifted, accept that it has drifted and then bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Just keep trying for those 15 minutes every day and it will get easier each time.

Recognising the benefits
Mindful is a physical workout for your brain and mindfulness can have real benefits on your brain. In fact scientific research has shown that the parts of the brain responsible for creativity, happiness and emotional intelligence all begin to strengthen and even grow in people who practice mindfulness for just a couple of months, while the parts of the brain responsible for addictive behaviours, stress and depression weaken and start to shrink. Because of these benefits, mindfulness is being taken on board by more and more people and even by large organisations like the NHS, Google, Apple and even the armed forces who recognise the benefits for their employees. While in schools in Australia children are being taught to overcome their negative emotions by pausing, taking a breath and bringing themselves back to the present moment.

Have you tried mindfulness? Has it been helpful for you? Tweet us at @TimeForYouGroup and let us share your experience.  

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