Mindfulness could calm your nerves this Christmas

By Alex Brooke

The word mindfulness simply means awareness.  It is a translation of an ancient word, Sati that’s used in much of the Buddhist literature.

Psychologists have proven that it can reduce stress, help people cope with depression and calm anxiety.

Mindfulness involves tuning into your surroundings and yourself, to calm your racing mind thinking about the past or the future. It’s a sort of moment-to-moment knowing what’s going on; where are you, who is around you, but also knowing what’s going on inside you.

Mindfulness can be used positively if we have a helpful awareness and a compassionate attitude to ourselves.  If you are someone who is very self critical, that’s an unhelpful awareness.

The important thing is, you can train yourself to become more mindful.  It involves a few minutes every day of meditation, for a couple of weeks.  

If you’re feeling frantic and need to try and calm down over Christmas, you can try the 3 minute breathing space.

It’s a simple thing, which you can do anywhere. You take about a minute over each of the steps. .

Before you begin, step out of automatic pilot, perhaps change your posture, or consciously slow down if you’re walking.

Then the first step is to acknowledge what is going on in your mind and body right now, almost like seeing the ‘weather pattern’ of what’s going on inside you.

You ask yourself; what’s my body doing right now, what thoughts and images are going through my mind, what feelings are around? You acknowledge them and make space for what’s going on, even if it’s not very pleasant.  Just accept what is going on, without trying to change anything.

Then move onto the second step, which is to focus all your attention, gently but firmly, on the sensations of your breath moving in and out of your body.  If you’re sitting down, be aware of the sensations of breath moving in and out of the abdomen, for example.  Feel the abdomen wall rising and falling as you breathe in and out.

If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath during that minute.

Lastly you expand your attention to the body as a whole.  Focus on all the sensations in your body right from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet, and right out to the surface of your skin. Remain with this more spacious sense of awareness for about a minute, before you get on with your life.