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It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”, and you can take steps to develop it in your own life.
Blogger Clare told us about her experience going to an eight week mindfulness course. Read about week one here.
Good mental wellbeing means feeling good – about life and yourself – and being able to get on with life in the way you want. You may think about wellbeing in terms of what you have: your income, home or car, or your job. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on wellbeing.
Becoming more aware of the present moment means noticing the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that you experience, as well as the thoughts and feelings that occur from one moment to the next.
Mindfulness, sometimes also called “present-centredness”, can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better. Being aware is one of the five evidence-based steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. Learn more about the five steps for mental wellbeing from NHS Choices.
Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and Welcome principal research fellow at the University of Oxford, says:
"Mindfulness means non-judgemental awareness. A direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment."
Professor Williams says that mindfulness can be an antidote to the “tunnel vision” that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.
"It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling, and to end up living 'in our heads' – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour
An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.
Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."