As a Psychology and Philosophy student, I only knew the text book definition of mindfulness; “it’s a therapy designed to lessen the effects of stress and anxiety”. Although I knew why mindfulness was used as a therapy, the science behind mindfulness and the research into its effectiveness, I was unsure of the exact techniques and how it is applied and used within everyday life. So when the opportunity therefore arose to attend an ‘Introduction into Mindfulness’ workshop led by Gemma Sandwell of The Happiness Branch at Rowan House Health and Wellbeing Centre, I was intrigued to know more to gain a better understanding if its clinical and day to day application.

My interpretation of Mindfulness:

1: Mindfulness is about being present in the ‘now’; not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

2: Mindfulness allows us to put space between us and our reactions, allowing us to be not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

3: It’s not about clearing the mind, but about accepting that we are human, we think (it is what our minds do). Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our thoughts and not judge ourselves on what we are thinking about and how that makes us feel.

4: Mindfulness is something we all naturally possess but like everything we learn and are trying to master requires regular practice so that it is more readily available to us when needed.

5: There are many different mindfulness techniques; focused breathing, body scanning & visualisation were ones we tried in this session.

One visualisation exercise which really worked for me was visualising carrying 2 shopping bags. One of past memories (good and bad) and one of future thoughts (fears, anxieties, plans and dreams). We were asked to imagine these as heavy bags which we had been carrying around for too long, which made our arms ache and shoulders hurt. We then had to imagine lowering these to the floor feeling the weight disappear and our arms rest and re-energize. We were asked to recongise this place between the past and future as the present the now – a place of rest and stillness to be enjoyed and appreciated. As like our arms and shoulders carrying real emotions and feelings  around from the past and worrying about the future can make us tired and weak.

This exercise I found particularly moved me emotionally; I wouldn’t say I was necessarily sad, but perhaps relieved.

How has this helped me personally? Well this session really helped me understand the day to day application of mindfulness and how it can be such a powerful resource if practiced regularly to help with stress and anxiety. I have regularly used the body scan when I am trying to sleep, it’s very relaxing and allows me to let go of any tension I feel in the body. As for the other techniques, I can’t say I have had to use them but I really am trying to live in the now, a good example being when I am driving home from work I take in the scenery more rather than being on auto pilot thinking about what I am going to have for tea, or an email I forgot to send at work.