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 Calming the mind with mindfulness

A member's reflection on mindfulness...

I was going to meet a match for the first time for coffee;  but my heart was pounding, I was almost shaking and all sorts of extreme thoughts were running through my mind. What if they don't like me?, what if I run out of things to say?, maybe they won't turn up? -  I had to do something to calm myself down.

What has really helped me in situations like this is something called mindfulness. It's not something hippy or full of spiritual mumbo-jumbo, as that's really not my thing; but a way of calming the mind by being in the here & now, and focussing on the body rather than a racing mind.

What is mindfulness?

Wikipedia is always good for a definition, it describes mindfulness as:

"... the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training."

Studies have shown that rumination and worry contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and that mindfulness-based interventions are effective in the reduction of both rumination and worry.

My own experience is that learning some simple techniques such as breathing slowly, counting breaths and being more aware of my body have helped me to calm down, switch off my brain and gain a better perspective on a situation. There are lots of studies out there to prove this helps with stress hormone levels, mental health, anxiety & depression; and it can help all sorts of people from ordinary folk like me and you, those who suffer from anxiety and depression and even high flying executives.

How do I get started with mindfulness?

The website has a good starting description:

"Typically mindfulness practice involves sitting with your feet planted on the floor and the spine upright. The eyes can be closed or rest a few feet in front while the hands are in the lap or on the knees. The attention is gently brought to rest on the sensations of the body, the feet on the floor, the pressure on the seat and the air passing through the nostrils. As the thoughts continue, you return again and again to these physical sensations, gently encouraging the mind not to get caught up in the thought processes but to observe their passage."    

Mindful Nation UK, Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group

I find that just stopping what I am doing for a few minutes, closing my eyes (if practical), breathing slowly and counting some breaths really helps me; and then when I can make space for 15 minutes me-time I take myself off and listen to an online app to guide me through a mindfulness session.

Mindfulness resources available

I personally found using an online app a good way to be guided through mindfulness without my mind wandering off or constantly wondering how much time had passed. has an introductory 10 free session you can try which I found very straightforward and reassuring and would recommend. also do an app but I haven't tried that myself.

There are also numerous book and online guides and also local classes (take a look at where you can have a go with a real life teacher if that works better for you.

I'm still a worrier and have a tendency to over think future situations, running through all the possibilities of what could happen. This seems to magnify in the middle of the night, when my brain is whirring and going over and over again a conversation I had with someone at work or a meeting I have to go to the next day. Now, when I remember, I tell myself to stop and apply some of the mindfulness techniques I have learnt. Being aware of my breath, counting breaths, being more aware of the weight of my body and releasing tension in individual areas. It doesn't always work, but often it helps me to switch off and drift back to sleep.

And what happened to the meeting? Well we got on immediately and are now good friends; so try stepping out of your comfort zone and meeting someone new on, we're all as nervous as each other underneath