Doctors agree that being more mindful improves your mental wellbeing and can even stop the onset of depression. But what is mindfulness and how could a massage help you be more mindful?
Mindfulness is having a clear and present awareness of yourself and the world around you on a day-to-day basis.
This may sound simple but most of us, especially those enduring hectic stressful lives, lack mindfulness. Sitting comfortably on a train we fail to notice the pregnant woman standing awkwardly right in front of us. We sip a coffee made by a barista whose face we did not even look at. We return home late in the evening without having noticed a single new thing about the world around us. You can avoid such scenarios by adopting a more mindful approach.
An important aspect of mindfulness is giving mental and physical priority to the current moment. By not allowing distracting thoughts to interfere with what is going on around us, we free ourselves to become more mindful.
The first step to improving mindfulness is to understand how to manage an over-busy mind.
When you have a hectic lifestyle, having a constant stream of multiple thoughts flowing through your mind at any one time is not unusual. Importantly, these thoughts should not repeatedly distract you from living in the present, either consciously or subconsciously.
Start off simple by taking some time to experience every day events in a little more detail. Smell your coffee before you drink it. Take note of the colour of the front doors in your street when you leave for work. Look around your train carriage to see if you can spot anyone who may be in need of a seat more than you. Mindfulness is about allowing the detail of your thoughts to be in line with what is happening in the world around you as it happens.
Once you have taken the first steps to appreciating what is going on around you, learn to recognise and park any distracting thoughts when they occur. Professor Lewis, a supporter of mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT), says:
“Imagine you are celebrating a friend’s 40th birthday.
During the evening you may find yourself repeatedly distracted with concerns about a recent new hire at work who you feel may be hamper your chances of a promotion.
Rather than letting your mind become increasingly distracted by this concern, promise to allocate yourself some private time later to think about this worry in more detail. Then observe the party that is going on around you, pick something of interest and focus your mental senses of that instead.”
Having the mental willpower to refocus your mind away from distracting thoughts and enjoying the current moment can be difficult. However building up step by step and taking a steady approach will allow you to improve your ability in doing so.
Most people find that having a calm and enjoyable surrounding, such as when taking a quiet walk or receiving a massage, makes it easier to recognise and temporarily park those niggling worries so that they can better experience the current moment instead.
Doing this on a regular basis - even having a predefined same period of time each week during which you will consciously focus on being more mindful - is a good way to improve overall mindfulness. A four-handed massage is an excellent choice if you are trying to completely switch off from other worries as the techniques used help your mind to relax more quickly and to be less analytical than it is usually.
Whether you decide to tackle anxiety through weekly massages or a simple walk, ensure that you spend that allocated time consciously focussing on experiencing and processing what is happening around you.
Break the "same old, same old" routine and try something different. If you have never had a massage at home, this can be a great way to start to your journey to becoming more mindful.
If you have tried all the above but still feel anxious about your own mindfulness, then you may want to try the NHS’s mood assessment quiz to help understand your current state of mind a bit better.
"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it." ― Thich Nhat Hanh