Mindfulness or Being Present: A technique to alleviate prolonged anxious thoughts

In this article, I am giving you a summary of the benefits of introducing Mindfulness practice into your life.  I will suggest that a daily practice of breathing relaxation or any other techniques outlined here under which will bring your attention in the here and now, will have a profound impact on your mental states, giving you a sense of well-being and improving on your relationships with yourself and others.

When overtly worried, whether catastrophising about the future, or the past, the important thing is to be able to let the worries flow and not fix our attention on them. How do we achieve this?: The Flowing thinking is achieved by focusing our mind and our attention on something around us in the present, and be aware of the sensations that activity produces on our body.

The practice will help you find balance, fulfillment in your life. It will give you a sense of well-being and help you adopt a more compassionate attitude. Being an observer also allows you to be curious about your own mind and other’s, to respond instead of reacting to others, therefore improving on your relationships.

To recognize you are anxious, to have “your mind in mind” is the key. Through the practice, you will allow a distance between your thoughts/feelings and yourself, thereby becoming an observer of your own mind and body but also of what is around you at that particular time.

You can learn to observe your breath going through your body, relaxing each part of it and easing the pain if there is any. You can chose to observe the sky, trees or any object of your choice and focus on them. It is not to do with escape, you are indeed acknowledging your pains and worries but also choosing to let them go, letting them flow instead of fixing your attention on them, by focusing your attention on the present, whether it is on your breathing or on something around you that you may feel worth of your attention. Using all your senses if you can, leaving no space for the thought provoking anxiety.

Indeed, you can become mindful when reading, walking in the park, if you are observing nature: by bringing attention to your experience in the present moment and be aware of its impact on you. What do you see, what do you hear, what do you feel, what do you taste and what do you smell. Using your senses in that way allows you to be present and open to your surrounding.

Benefits of Mindfulness Practice – Key Points:

  • Its practice allows the mind to settle and quieten.
  • The technique will help embodying the “here and now” experience by awareness of sensations as opposed to cognition and words.
  • Mindfulness is not about stopping thoughts, but coming into a kinder and more accepting relationship with them.
  • It helps to value the experience of self-compassion.
  • A significant reason for prolonged emotional distress relates to attempts to avoid or control your experiences. When practising Mindfulness, no attempt is made to evaluate experiences.  Adopting an accepting stance towards your experience can be a challenge.
  • The art of being present is to develop the skill of noticing when you have drifted away from the observing and sensing mode into thinking mode.

Scientific Research about Mindfulness practice:

Research has proved that Mindfulness improves focus, empathy, emotional control and increases a sense of well-being. Through brain scans, Researchers have been able to show an increase in activity in the area of the brain, identified as key in attention, memory, emotional regulation and empathy for others.

By becoming aware over and over again, of the thoughts and images passing through the mind, then letting go of them, as we return our attention to the present moment through Mindfulness, sciences has proved that it is possible to dissolve existing neural pathways (fixed thinking) and create more desirable ones and also create a perspective on our thoughts which allows us to respond to an event rather than react to it, therefore improving the way we relate to people and events.

Old thoughts patterns which automatically appear in the mind will gradually disappear as the practice of mindfulness will allow us gradually to gain other ways to think about situations.

We can with Mindfulness awaken some kind of force inside us. This will have an impact on the way we feel and therefore relate in the world.

This is all the more important to experience around key times, like Christmas or family reunions. Undoubtedly, there can be some rise in anxieties around family and with relationships during these times. It can be a very stressful and anxious time for many of us.

Mindfulness practice helps to develop a “Mindfulness muscle” and as it develops, it places you in a better position to break free from unhelpful thinking habits – from Fixed thinking, to flowing thinking.

This practice, I believe, is also advocated by Eckhart Tolle in his book, “The Power of Now”.

In it, he describes how our mind, although a necessary and wonderful tool to deal with “life situations”, can make us look at past and future times and therefore remove us from the only moment when we can live our lives to the full, i.e. NOW. If we take it to the extreme, some people would only live in the past, identifying themselves with their memories of past experiences, and often would become nostalgic; or some people would only live for a goal to be achieved, and put themselves under a lot of stress, forgetting that their living is actually now; catastrophising is one of the cognitive issues we encounter often and this suggests a lot of anxiety.

You may have heard of the inspiring young lady, Alexia, a climber ranked 9th in the World, who was featured in the news lately because of her extraordinary achievement in her GCSE’s. I have the pleasure to know her and I would like to suggest that her remarkable achievement both in her climbing and academia emphasizes what Tolle also said in his book, that an intense activity which forces you in the now will not only help your mind focus on the situation at hand, but will give you a sense of being alive. It is not merely a distraction, it ables the mind to focus in the now and that skill, if practiced, can then be transferable in other aspects of your life. For Alexia it was about her school work. The focus in the now, I suggest, allowed Alexia to overcome anxiety and fear and this new mental state has helped her tremendously with her revisions and allowed her to achieve results which were beyond her expectations.

Tolle explains in his book that the state of presence/being can only be achieved at times and with practice. The importance is to CHOOSE to have the focus of your consciousness in the present moment rather than in the past or the future. This is what bouldering or another intense physical activity like it would, unbeknown sometimes to the person, train this person to do. What’s inspiring about Alexia’s story is that this young lady was very much aware of the effects the climbing had on her mind and wanted to impart her understanding to many more young people around her who are experiencing great difficulties in managing their anxieties.

As a conclusion to this article about the benefits of Mindfulness, I will quote Eckhart Tolle who mentioned that the “Loss of now is loss of Being”.

Recommended readings:

The Brain that Changes Itself , Norman Doidge (2008)

Make you attitudes your Allies, David J. Scwartz

The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle (2011)