Imagine you’re on the bus making your way home from a long and gruelling day in the office; the coffee machine was buggered, you didn’t get through half of your emails and that weird dude you sit next to STILL won’t stop humming Eye Of The Tiger. What’s going through your mind?
Most likely, it’s the internal, irritable conversation about the rudeness of persistent humming as you predict the content of your unopened emails. You reach your stop even more wound up than you were at the bus stop and you’re no closer to solving the issues that sit on your desk tomorrow morning. Sound familiar?
The latest school of psychological thought sees these mundane, everyday scenarios as crucial to cognitive treatment. Mindfulness is the latest meditative practice to be hailed as the solution to coping with everyday stressors and is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) and prescribed on the NHS as an effective treatment for recurring mental health problems such as depression and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Based on Buddhist philosophies and developed by über-psychologist, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1980s, “Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction” is, according to the founding father, “paying attention on purpose”.
Director of Mindfulness at Oxford University, Mark Williams, describes the practice of mindfulness as:
“Mindfulness is about observation without criticism and being compassionate with yourself. When unhappiness hovers overhead, rather than take it personally, you learn to treat them if they were black clouds in the sky and observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past. It allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral”.
Basically, if you find yourself thinking, “the world’s a load of shit”, acknowledge that you just thought 'the world is shit', and accept your line of thinking without judgment.
It doesn’t stop with your thoughts either. Non-judgmental acknowledgement can be applied to the most regular activities, forcing you to connect with your surroundings and ultimately redirect attention away from the cycle of anxious nasties that cloud our weary minds.
Sound like a load of airy, fairy psycho-babble? Resist your inner skeptic and give these Mindfulness exercises a go when you enter the familiar worry-whirring. Hey, if it’s good enough for Medical Professors, billionaire businessmen and Emma Watson… it's at least worth a shot.