Mindfulness and the importance of living in the moment

For Mental Health Awareness Week, Craig Eblett, Director of Digital Delivery for Shared Platforms at DWP Digital, shares his experiences and journey exploring different elements of mindfulness and, how reframing how you think, can help in everyday situations.

It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to take notice and hard to slow down in a busy world.

What is mindfulness?

Generally speaking, mindfulness means living in the moment. It means being aware of your feelings and experiences without passing judgment or reacting rashly. It allows you to slow down and process things, rather than being disconnected and going through the motions without understanding why you’re behaving a certain way.

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. When we become more aware and pay attention to the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we may have taken for granted.

The simple pleasures in life, from a moment in time, help to bring us to a place of stillness and allow us to enjoy the present moment. For example, this could be a long walk on your own, or with family, friends and colleagues which brings renewed gratitude and connections. Reading a book or simply watching the sunset are other examples of simple indulgences. Everyone needs to take time to find a way to quiet themselves – it’s an important part of our self-care.

Use mindfulness to stop negative thoughts and overthinking

Many of us spend time worrying about the past or devising and projecting into the future. This stream of thinking is normal but sometimes can be negative and prevent us from seeing the reality around us. These thoughts can make us miss out on experiences and the benefits or joy of being in the present because of the mental veil of negative self-thoughts and the negative labelling of self-interpretation.

Practicing mindfulness can be very useful to get us into a better mindset and appreciate ourselves more in the moment. It can help stop the negative thoughts in our minds fueled by consistent overthinking.

Mindfulness tools help us to pause, recognise the root of the challenge and the feeling and situation that we are in. Mindfulness tools enable us to be clear, centered and grounded enough to say to ourselves: “You can transform this, you are in a good space to handle it this time, you don’t need to be overwhelmed by the negativity of fear and anxiety.”

Focus on the present

Practicing mindfulness will help and support us to make conscious choices that could change our lives and help us live in the present moment and recognise when we aren’t.

If we allow ourselves to be too pre-occupied devising or projecting into the future and at the same time worrying about the past, research shows that we may end up missing out on the benefit and the joy of being in the present.

Don’t ignore the part of your brain that needs the most attention

Sometimes we might beat ourselves up or blame others, and by doing so we create an awful belief that somehow things will improve. However, if we continue to do that, the learning centre of our brain shuts down and we hide that part we’re ashamed of because we’re too scared or perhaps it is too painful to open up. So we end up ignoring the part of our brain that needs the most attention.

By focusing on mindful kind attention we can look at ourselves and see a challenging situation from a different perspective.

Some practical mindfulness exercises

Here are some quick and practical mindfulness exercises to think about:

  • Paying attention to the present moment can improve your mental wellbeing. This includes your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you.
  • Live in the moment. Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do.
  • Accept yourself.
  • Focus on your breathing.

So don’t forget – mindfulness works. It’s good for us. It increases our immune function because it decreases stress. Mindfulness can be practiced whatever your age, gender or cultural background. It can bring people together to talk about a common issue.

I do appreciate that mindfulness isn’t the answer to everything, and it’s important that our enthusiasm mustn’t run ahead of the evidence. However, having the tools to calm down, relax and sense yourself helps you to get into a better mindset and appreciate yourself in the moment.

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