Mindfulness can help you bring your attention back from worrying or thinking too much and refocus your thoughts to the present moment.
But what exactly is mindfulness and what exercises can you do to help practise the technique?
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being aware. When you're being 'mindful', you notice and pay attention to what you're doing, thinking and feeling and what's going on around you.
It can be hard to stay in the present moment. Our minds can easily wander from what we're doing to other thoughts and sensations. We can often get caught up in thoughts about what might happen (worries) and what has happened (regrets) or thinking about 'should haves' or 'what if's'.
We can sometimes spend more time in a thought 'commentary' in our heads than being fully engaged in the here and now.
Mindfulness is the act of paying attention and being actively involved in whatever you're doing with all of your senses.
Practising mindfulness, by taking notice of what's going on around us or by focusing on our breath, can help us to bring our attention back to the present moment.
Try it now
If your thoughts are wandering during the day you can try these mindfulness exercises to refocus your awareness back to the here and now:
- Experience the present moment through your five senses - take notice of the touch of a door handle, the smell of grass, the sound of birds singing, the colour of the sky, the taste of ice-cream. This practice can help to increase awareness of your surroundings and what's happening right now.
- Do an everyday task mindfully - like brushing your teeth or washing up. Instead of letting your mind drift, focus completely on the task. Experience the sensation of water on your hands, notice the scent of the washing up liquid, listen to the trickle of water from the tap, feel the smoothness of the plates.
- Go for a mindful walk outside - listen to noises around you: can you hear people, traffic or birds? Look at any buildings you pass: are they houses, offices or shops? How warm or cold is it outside? Is the sun shining?
- Eat something mindfully - such as a small piece of chocolate, a nut or sultana. Start by looking at it: notice its size, shape and colour. How does it smell or feel in your fingers? Close your eyes if it helps you be more aware. Put it in your mouth and notice how it feels: is it hard or soft, dry or wet? Does it change as you hold it in your mouth? Can you taste it? Chew it mindfully, noticing the flavour and textures, before you swallow.
- Take five breaths slowly, focusing fully as you breathe in and breathe out each time - where can you feel your breath in your body? Do you notice your stomach rising and falling - putting your hand there can help.
- Try a creative activity - there are lots of activities that you can focus on mindfully. Notice what your hands are doing and how it feels hold a paintbrush, pen, scissors or spoon. Can you smell anything? What colours can you see? Think about the steps in your activity - like a recipe for a cake or instructions for knitting. Why not download our Ideas to get creative resource and try mindful creativity?
If you start to be distracted by your thoughts while practising mindfulness - just notice and be aware of them without letting your mind wander.
You can find workshops, drop-in groups and courses in Leeds. Some are free or pay-as-you-feel - others have a weekly or termly cost. Find out more about what's available:
Leeds Mind Peer support - offer a range of support groups, workshops and courses including courses in mindfulness and meditation. Download the latest schedule from the Leeds Mind website.
InkWell - Mindfulness Meditation Drop-in group, Wednesdays 10.30am-12pm. Please contact Steve Hart on 07999218450 for more information.
Swarthmore Centre, Leeds run a series of wellbeing courses including mindfulness.
Leeds Mindfulness runs drop-in mindfulness meditation practise groups across Leeds, and the site has details of upcoming events.
Leeds Mindfulness Co-op offer accessible, accredited mindfulness courses in community settings in Leeds and Bradford. Some of their courses are free. During Covid these are both face-to-face and on-line. Leeds Mindfulness Co-op also offer self-funded courses and support within organisations. Download the latest offerings or sign up for their newsletter at the Leeds Mindfulness Co-op website https://mindfulnesscoop.co.uk/courses/
Tools and apps
NHS Choices has information about how mindfulness can support our mental wellbeing with tips for different mindfulness practices.
Mind has a useful video about what mindfulness is, tips for finding courses, groups and teachers, and blogs from people who've tried it.
The Mental Health Foundation has a 10 minute exercise you can listen to for free online.
The Free Mindfullness Project - free-to-download mindfulness meditation exercises.
Look online at Leeds Libraries catalogue and search 'mindfulness'. They have many books, eBooks and eAudiobooks available free to library members, from mindful gardening to mindful crochet, or taking daily pauses to running mindfully.
Mindfulness by Mark Williams
The Reality Slap Dr Russ Harris
Books/CDs by Jon Kabat-Zinn - Wherever you go, there you are or Full Catastrophe Living