- What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation?
There are different forms of meditation but meditation also overlaps with mindfulness, which is is why we also talk about `mindfulness meditation’. Mindfulness is the awareness of what is going on in the present moment without judgement. Some forms of meditation, ie mindfulness meditation, focus on being present while for instance sitting and connecting your breath and body sensations or just paying attention to whatever is there in the present moment.
Other formal mindfulness techniques that require to set time aside for being present include walking meditation, mindful yoga and the body scan. However, mindfulness can also be practiced informally, which means that you can learn to do any of you daily activities by being fully engaged with them in the present moment, such as eating, brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
- Since I can apply mindfulness to my everyday activities, do I need to also do formal mindfulness practices?
You can start by bringing mindfulness to some of your everyday activities. For instance, to wash your hands mindfully, you will be focusing on the sensations of the soapy water against your hands, the palm of your hands, the top of your hands, between your fingers, on the sensations as you rub your hands together, and the sensations as you dry your hands.
However, it is also important to take time out to practice mindfulness formally because we are so used to thinking about the events that happened in the past or anticipate what might happen in the future that we need to train our minds to being present, accepting what is arising in the present moment and developing compassion towards ourselves and others. Cultivating mindfulness through formal practice makes it easier to then apply it to your everyday activities and be increasingly present in your daily life.
- How often do I need to practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of life, it is not a quick fix. You can learn some mindfulness techniques but ultimately mindfulness needs to be cultivated on a daily basis in order to be able to make a difference to your life.
As research has shown mindfulness can bring many benefits to your health and well-being but it requires a certain commitment and intentionality.
The truth is that mindfulness is hard work but it is worth persevering. You can start with just watching your breath for a minute or 2 once a day, then adding a couple of minutes every few days and doing at least once activity mindfully.
You can then increase the length of your practice and how much you apply it to your everyday day activities as long as you are committed to it.
- Do we try to stop thinking when we practice mindfulness?
We are not trying to stop our thoughts when we practice mindfulness, we are just observing our thoughts without getting caught up in them.
Each time we find ourselves getting caught up in a thought, we can note the kind of thought ie ‘this is a thought about the past’ and bring ourselves back gently without judging ourselves to our breath or whatever we are focusing on at that moment.
We not trying to suppress any thoughts either, we let whatever thoughts and emotions come but we let them go.
If judging thoughts come in while we are practicing mindfulness, like `I can’t do this’ or ‘I am doing it wrong’ , just acknowledge that these are judgments and bring your attention back to your breath.
- Who can benefit from mindfulness the most?
Not only we spend a lot of our time thinking about the past or the future, we have very busy lives focused on always doing and we are also bombarded with information these days. This means that it is very easy to be disconnected from ourselves and others.
Therefore, everybody can benefit from mindfulness. We also all experience stress, frustration, difficult communication in our daily lives and we all respond emotionally to certain triggering situations. You can also introduce mindfulness to your partner and children and practice together to improve your overall family well-being and improve your family dynamic.
However, depending on our childhood experiences and upbringing some people will have better inner resources to cope with stressful situations than others.
So those who can benefit from mindfulness the most are people who find themselves:
- stressed out at work
- stressed out from having to combine work and family responsibilities
- having difficulties communicating in their professional or personal life,
- being impatient and irritable with their partners and/or children,
- experiencing anxiety
- getting caught up in cycles of depression
- feeling often fearful
- lacking in self-confidence
- feeling dissatisfied with some aspects of their life
Dr Lise Saugeres is a Doctor of Social Science who specialises in delivering mindfulness training to deal with stress and improve your communication skills so you can have a fulfilling life.
Lise has practiced mindfulness for 15 years and has a Certificate In Mindfulness Therapy. She also has over 20 years research and teaching experience in the areas of gender roles, families, health and well-being, and employment.
To find out how Lise can help you or your organisation, visit: experientialmindfulnessmelbourne.com.au