Mindfulness is the latest must-do activity for those seeking improved well-being, it’s been linked with increased concentration, productivity and improved sporting performance as well as reduced stress, overeating and helping us stick with healthy habits. A recent study even found that women tend to be more attracted to men who are high in mindfulness.
So what is mindfulness? Modern life if a constant assault on the senses and as such our minds can run at a permanent 90 miles an hour. Mindfulness teaches us to bring focus to the present moment, to be aware of what’s going on in our bodies and the senses we experience. When we are fully conscious we can prevent our minds from wandering allowing us to enjoy the experience of the here and now.
Think of it as a less full on version of meditation. For one thing, you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor – unless you want to of course. Mindfulness can be practiced throughout everyday life unlike meditation, which involves taking dedicated time out.
Regular practice can bring about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness. You don’t need to dedicate hours to the practice either, just a few minutes a day is plenty, although regularity is the key to success. There’s no right and wrong when it comes to mindfulness, so don’t let any initial frustrations put you off. Experts advise us to simply ‘observe without criticism’, which means being aware of what your mind is doing without judging, or feeling like you are failing.
With mindfulness well and truly in the mainstream (even the NHS gives advice on how to practice mindfulness) it’s easy to give it a try. I recently tested a load of mindfulness apps; here are my pick of the bunch.
Simplicity is the key to this mindfulness app, which guides you through three minutes of breathing exercises. It’s not rocket science, but it’s an effective way to help you calm your mind.
Six different mindfulness meditations of varying lengths for 15 daily activities from traveling, to going to sleep and dealing with difficult emotions, so there’s always a track to match your mood. A multicoloured play wheel makes dipping into the different tracks easy and fun.
PAUSE brings ancient Tai Chi and mindfulness practice to your phone. By slowly and continuously moving your fingertip across the screen PAUSE is designed to help your regain focus and release stress within a few minutes.
Headspace promises to teach you mindfulness in ten minutes a day for ten days and all for free. After that it’s a monthly subscription.