Dr Sarah Barker
Many people are aware of the benefits of mindfulness for mental health but finding time to practise in a busy world can be a challenge. Creating moments of mindful awareness can be a great first step in embedding a mindful practice into daily life. These small moments are entitled ‘micro moments’ and provide a pause that allows mental recovery and improves our overall well-being.
Interestingly, if you do an internet search for ‘micro-moments’, this term is also used within internet marketing as companies compete for our attention. Moments are classified as ‘wanting to know moments’, ‘wanting to go moments’, ‘wanting to buy moments’, and ‘wanting to do moments’. This contrasts with the ‘present focus’ used in mental health. Bringing mindful awareness to how we spend each moment can be helpful in leading a more values-driven life that we more actively choose. In what way do you want to spend this moment, and this next moment, and this subsequent moment? Being clear on the values we want to underpin our life can help us to choose how we spend each moment, and lead to greater satisfaction and enhanced mental and physical health. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a Third Wave cognitive behavioural therapy, emphasises values and present focus and is offered by many of the practitioners at Healthy You, and can be a helpful exercise in thinking this through.
The benefits of mindfulness and being present focused are many, and an increasing body of research discusses the benefits for health and conditions such as chronic pain. Mindfulness can help to calm the central nervous system or bring more energy if you are feeling hypo aroused. When you are stressed finding ‘ mindful flow’ in activities such as art can be incredibly helpful. Noticing the colours, textures and movement whilst painting, or the vibrations and rhythms whilst making music can support and enhance creativity. You can also focus on your breathing; briefly narrowing your focus of attention, then widen this out again. Your mindfulness practice does not have to be at a special set time- it can be brief micro moments that punctuate your day.
An easy way to embed this into your life, is to choose two or three activities that you repeat daily, such as cleaning your teeth. When you are engaged in these activities, bring your full awareness and attention to the task. Use all of your senses to engage with what you taste, see, smell, feel and hear. When you notice your mind drifting away to memories or images, bring your full attention and all your senses back to the raw experience of the here-and-now. This technique can be used whether you are at work, commuting or with family and friends. When you pay full attention to these small moments of life, your overall contentment and happiness can increase.