VOYA talks with Dr Paula Martin from Beo Mindful Health who educates us on the importance of introducing mindfulness into our daily lives. Dr Paula Martin is a general practitioner, living and working in Co Sligo and is founding Director of Beo – a Centre for Mindfulness & Integrative Health. For many of us, harboring regrets about the past and worrying about the future is a constant feature in our lives, so much so that we often spend little time in the present. Mindfullness can help us shift our presence to the present! Dr Martin provides simple steps on how we can achieve this. Prepare to be inspired!
PAULA : Mindfulness is an awareness practice that helps us to live more fully in the present moment. Mindfulness is a secular practice which can be applied to all aspects of modern day life and applies to all ages.
One definition of mindfulness is that of paying attention to what’s happening in the here and now without judgment.
Much of the time we spend our lives running on automatic pilot, not actually aware of what’s happening in our body and mind, and in the world around us. We can easily become lost in our thoughts, worrying about the future and thinking about the past. With this, we can miss much of our lives.
In practicing mindfulness we invite our attention to come back to this present moment, which is the only moment life is available to us. We learn to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, developing skills to manage them rather than being overwhelmed. We use our breath and body to stabilise our attention in the here and now.
For example, you may be out for a walk. Rather than being completely lost in your thoughts, you can practice walking mindfully in the ‘ here and now’. You can become aware of the sensation of the breeze on your face as you walk, noticing the sound of the passing traffic, or the sound of a bird. You can walk with an awareness that your feet are in contact with the ground, with an awareness that you are breathing. Each time you notice that your mind has become ‘caught’ in stories, worrying or planning, you simply acknowledge your thoughts and without giving yourself a hard time, bring your attention back to what is actually present.
In many ways mindfulness in an invitation to stay awake and present to your life, as it unfolds, moment by moment.
VOYA: Why is it important to practice Mindfulness in our modern day lives?
PAULA: Evidence shows that practicing mindfulness regularly benefits both body and mind, promoting physical and mental well-being. In General Practice we see more and more people experiencing chronic fatigue, low mood, anxiety, insomnia and digestive disturbances. Many of these physical ailments are stress related and a result of our fast paced modern lifestyles.
Science tells us that the mind and body are connected. When we are stressed the body naturally releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are essential to our survival, enabling us to ‘fight or flight’ during times of danger. However if our body is constantly releasing these hormones our system falls into a state of ‘ dis-ease’ or ‘imbalance’. Over time the immune system weakens, our sleep pattern is disturbed, we become more prone to muscle tension and digestive problems. In practising mindfulness, we become more aware of the impact of stress on our mind- body health. We learn to respond to stress rather than going down the usual pathway of ‘ fight or flight’. We become active participants in our own health and healing.
As we develop a regular practice we may notice that our attention and concentration improve. We experience more positive emotions and recover more easily from stress. We may also notice that some physical discomfort eases.
VOYA: So, how can we introduce mindfulness into our daily life?
PAULA: One of the wonderful things about mindfulness is that it can be practiced anywhere, and at anytime, you don’t need any special equipment. All you need is an intention to pay attention.
Wake up with Awareness
When you wake up in the morning before you get out of bed, practice becoming aware of your breathing. You may wish to take afew breaths down into your belly, aware of your inbreath, aware of your outbreath. Continue this practice as you move through your day, simply becoming aware of your breath. The breath is an anchor to the here and now, and it is always available.
Become mindful of everyday activities !
Use everyday activites as a reminder to bring you back to the ‘ here and now’. Try having a mindful shower, becoming aware of the actual sensations of the water on your skin, or brushing your teeth with greater awareness. Rather than rushing through activities, slow down, be present.
Have a mindful cup of tea
Next time you are having a cup of tea or coffee, take a moment to actually feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, to take in the aroma. Pause and take a breath before taking that first sip, you may even find it tastes nicer !
Pause and connect
Practice pausing at regular intervals during your day moving from automatic pilot to simply being. Notice your posture and become aware of your breath. Ask yourself with a friendly attitude, what thoughts are here ? Are there any feelings ? Is there any tension within my body ? Acknowledge whatever is present in your experience without judgement.
Develop a daily meditation practice
Mindfulness is a way of being in the world. For most people it is a new skill and it requires practice. Set aside some quiet time each day to simply connect with yourself in meditation. Spending even 15-25 mins a day in sitting meditation can be a great support in weaving mindfulness into the whole of your life.
VOYA: How can I learn more about mindfulness ?
PAULA: One great way to learn about mindfulness is to enrol on a course. The eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course is an evidence based educational training in Mindfulness. The course is designed to help you learn skills to live and cope better with pain, stress and illness. Research shows that there are actually positive changes in the brain following this 8 week course. My next 8 week mindfulness course begins on September 28th in Sligo Town. This includes 8 weekly evening mindfulness classes. You may like to participate in a mindful walk or try a mindful movement class. For further details on my classes and further mindfulness resources see www.beomindfulhealth.ie
VOYA would like to thank Dr Paula Martin for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk with us. For more wellness advice, beauty and lifestyle tips visit https://voya.ie/blog/ and follow us Twitter @VOYABEAUTY , Instagram and like us on Facebook today.