Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is being in touch with the present moment. You intentionally observe and become aware of your subjective experience – your thoughts, sensations and feelings – without judgement. You can be mindful when eating, breathing, thinking, hearing, sitting, and in many other ways.

By sensing your breath, your body and your immediate environment, you remain fully present and aware, and mental distractions are effortlessly removed.  Mindfulness is an excellent skill to practise when coping with withdrawal – a time when you may be prone to worrying thoughts about symptoms and recovery. It can be used to take a step back from your situation and to reduce the impact that withdrawal may be having on your life. It is also a valuable tool to use in everyday life.

A Simple Exercise

The following simple exercise will give you an idea of how mindfulness works. It is not used to stop the mind but it will help you to gently release any thoughts of the past or future and redirect your attention to the present moment by focusing on the breath.

-      Find a comfortable position and close your eyes.

-      Focus your attention on your breathing. Simply pay attention first to the sensation of your breath as it flows in and out of your nostrils.

-      Feel your stomach/abdomen rise and fall as you breathe in and out… (rising when you inhale and falling as you slowly release the breath).

-      Continue to focus your attention on the flow and rhythm of your body as you breathe in and out.

-      If thoughts enter your mind (as they probably will), gently acknowledge them and return your focus to your breath.

-      Do this for as long as you feel comfortable… for as long as it feels right for you.

The more you practise, the more natural it will feel and the longer you will be able to do it.

Move attention to the body

You can further extend this basic exercise by moving your attention to the body as you breathe. Place your awareness on one area at a time and notice the sensations. Does it feel cold, warm, tight, sore, tingling? Simply observe, again, without judgement. Just be present. Then start listening to the sounds around you, with no analysis or thoughts. If you find yourself doing this, gently acknowledge and bring your focus back. All you need to do is listen. Then when it feels right for you, prepare yourself to open your eyes and slowly do so.

Mindfulness can also be a good way of grounding yourself

After completing the above exercises, you can ground yourself by doing this: Slowly open your eyes and look around as if you are seeing for the first time. Settle your eyes on an object for about 15 to 30 seconds. Don’t analyse or evaluate it; just observe it. As you do this, maintain an awareness of your breathing, your body and any sounds around you. Then let your eyes rest on another object for a minute or two, until you are ready to get up.

This video of Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn giving a lecture on Mindfulness explains the concept. It is long but well worth watching if you have the time.

 

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