Mindfulness: Living in the present moment

Focus on what is important!
The past and future often dictate our thoughts and in this chaotic world people are becoming detached from the present moment. We often go through our lives without paying attention and checked out of the present moment.
Cultivating mindfulness is not an easy task by any measure, but with practice and persistence you can make significant changes allowing yourself to remove all the clutter in your mind and become present in the now.

Why is the present so important?
Ever felt that feeling of brain fog? So much to do but too little time…..

In our high paced lifestyle, it is easy to become overwhelmed with endless to do lists clouding your mind. What if I was to say it possible to take charge and filter your thoughts removing negative thoughts and as a result live in the present moment and boast focus and in-turn productivity. Mindfulness is a process in which gives you the ability to clear your mind and file your thoughts and focus on the present.

Mindfulness is not for me….

I hear this time and time again. In fact, I used to say the same thing. My mind is too busy I can’t switch my mind off, there is too much to be done, I don’t have a spare 10mins. All very common excuses I would tell myself. Until I committed to change, like any new challenge you must be persistent to make change.

How did I change:
I set myself the challenge, one-month of daily mindfulness mediation (10min/Day). It was not easy, 10mins doesn’t sound like much however it was incredibly hard finding this time in my high paced lifestyle of racing from place to place. Once I found the time my mind wondered continuously, of tasks I had to do, it became a never ending stream of thoughts popping into my mind, some so random and distracting. These thoughts repeatedly removed my focus from the practice, leaving me questioning is this worth it? I cannot to do this…..

I reminded myself I was doing this for a reason and I stuck it out, within two week I began to notice a considerable difference. I was thriving with energy and my productivity levels began to soar with my new found focus, I was no longer brain fogged! Instead of sitting down to do a task and wasting 10mins trying to get my head into a task, it was like a switch flicked as soon as I sat down the work began flowing. As I progressed through my practice my mind became progressively clearer, my ability to process information steadily improved. Naturally, with all these new found capabilities, mindfulness has become a regular practice for me and an essential part of my daily life.

Beginning a mindfulness practice was one of the best things I have ever done. It has allowed me to get on top of busy lifestyle, take control of my thoughts and become present allowing me to focus on what is important.


Mindfulness: Where to start

Mindfulness Definition: A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations

Becoming mindful by no means is easy to achieve, it is something myself that I have struggled to achieve and stay on top of. When you introduce anything new into your life it does not come easy it is a skill that takes time to master. However, if you stick to it like myself the benefits are endless!!
It is important to understand that mindfulness can be a number of things. It does not necessarily require too much time it can be as simple as a taking a moment and a couple of breaths to reset and become present. However, to achieve this quick reset it takes more skill.

Where to Start?

Start Small but Consistent. I always advocate to my clients that are new to mindfulness to begin with guided mindfulness mediation (GMM). Start small (5-10min) build the habit, then build time. It is important to understand that GMM is a practice, therefore it consistency is key. Pick a time that you know you can achieve and start there.

What is guided Mindfulness Meditation (GMM)? Where do I find it?

GMM is a practice where someone guides your thoughts and shifts your focus, teaching you awareness of the present moment. This practice sets the foundation for overall mindfulness.
GMM is continually growing in popularity with this growth comes more variety in methods. You now have endless options: classes, apps, websites, retreats. With all the options it is best to pick an option that suits you and something that you can stick to. The big thing when it comes to guided mediation find a voice that is easy to listen so search around for one that suits you.

My Favourite Method

I personally prefer apps as they are easy to use and access. Plus, the majority of apps take you on a journey that educate you as your progress through various stages. As you advance they begin to impart methods and techniques that show you how introduce mindfulness into your daily lifestyle. This journey takes any worry of uncertainty while keeping you accountable and on the right track.

My Favourite Mindfulness Apps

Majority of apps offer a free trial that leads into a paid version (Headspace, Calm). Test each of them out and find the one that suits you. I highly recommend upgrading to paid versions as it becomes a lot more personalised as you can select packages that that you require and it offers further education that really gives you the skills required to make your mindfulness practice easy and stress free.

Free Mindfulness Options

Don’t want to pay. No stress there are options for you too. There is endless GMM available for free on websites, youtube and even apps that give you unlimited free access (Insight Timer). However, I have found these to be less effective as it feels more sporadic with less of a focus as a regular practice.
My Favorite Apps

Head Space: https://www.headspace.com/ (I began here)
Calm: https://www.calm.com/
Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/


The science behind mindfulness

Mindfulness mediation has been around for thousands of years but only recently research has discovered that the brain has the ability to change its structure and function—strengthening and expanding circuits that are frequently used and weakening and shrinking those that are rarely engaged. This flexibility in the brain is what is called ‘neuroplasticity’.

Mediation and Mindfulness for too long have not been accepted by the medical profession due to lack of evidence but with recent research coming out more and more medical professionals are accepting it’s use as a treatment for a wide variety of conditions, such as chronic pain, addiction, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer and HIV, to name a few.

Throughout the past decade, numerous neuroimaging studies have investigated changes in brain morphology related to mindfulness meditation. One study pooled data from 21 neuroimaging studies examining the brains of about 300 experienced meditation practitioners. The study identified that eight regions were consistently altered in the experienced mediators.

The eight brain regions included the following:

· Rostrolateral prefrontal cortex: A region associated with meta-awareness (awareness of how you think), introspection, and processing of complex, abstract information.

· Sensory cortices and insular cortex: The main cortical hubs for processing of tactile information such touch, pain, conscious proprioception, and body awareness.

· Hippocampus: A pair of subcortical structures involved in memory formation and facilitating emotional responses.

· Anterior cingulate cortex and mid-cingulate cortex: Cortical regions involved in self-regulation, emotional regulation, attention, and self-control.

· Superior longitudinal fasciculus and corpus callosum: Subcortical white matter tracts that communicate within and between brain hemispheres.

Other studies have analysed MRI scans and have now uncovered that as little as an eight-week course of mindfulness practice impacts the brains “fight or flight” center, the amygdala. This region is responsible for fear and emotion; it is involved in the ignition of the bodies response to stress. The amygdala has been shown to shrink, this is highly beneficial as it minimises the stress response. While the amygdala shrinks the pre-frontal cortex (function: associated with awareness, concentration and decision making) becomes thicker, offering a stronger awareness. Further, the connection between regions becomes altered with the amygdala getting weaker, while the connections between areas associated with attention and concentration grow stronger.

Simply put, our more primal responses to stress seem to be superseded by more thoughtful ones.

– Luke Taylor, Taylored Fitness