With today's hectic lifestyle, it's easy to be constantly distracted with everyday tasks. As our brains are continually bombarded with information, we are desperately trying to process everything all at once and to do this we unconsciously filter the bits that are important to us. But with so much information we can become overwhelmed and it becomes easy for us to block out much of this sensory overload and stop noticing things around us. Very often we loose touch with the world around us and become caught up in our own thoughts, without realising how these thoughts are affecting our own behaviour. In extreme cases, such negative thought patterns can lead us to anxiety or even depression. By becoming more mindful and present in the moment, we can combat some of this negativity and help to break cycles which we may find ourselves in.
So what is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present or aware of our thoughts, feelings and our immediate environment. Essentially it means being intentionally aware and living in the moment, not worrying about the past or future. Mindfulness often suggests a calm and compassionate state of mind, one free from stress and worries. When used as a verb 'to be mindful' it indicates entering into this state of mind by practicing a moment by moment awareness of our emotions, thoughts and sensations.
Studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety, benefiting our psychological and physiological well being. Becoming more present in the moment we begin to experience the world differently which can help us to enjoy life and the world around us to a different degree. Gradually by being more 'present' we can begin to notice when negative thought patterns may be about to occur and circumvent them. This awareness can help us to deal with stress or anxiety earlier, creating healthier patterns in the long term.
While anyone can practice mindfulness, not everyone finds it easy to. There are many ways in which you can practice mindfulness and although traditional methods such as meditation, yoga, walking or gentle exercise have been proven to reduce stress and gain insight into observing our own mind, they don't always work for everyone. Trying new things can help you to see the world in a new way. Hobbies which involve repetitive, rhythmic tasks such as sewing, knitting or crochet have proven to improve mental activity and change brain connectivity, thus lowering our response to stress. Anecdotal evidence has proven that activities which slow us down and cause us to concentrate on the task at hand lead to a more mindful experience, which in turn leads to happier moments.
There are thousands of crafts proven to reduce stress and increase mindfulness. From knitting, crochet, painting, embroidery, English Paper Piecing, quilting and sewing, to origami, scrapbooking, cross stitch, sketching and colouring to name but a few. These hobbies offer a pause in our busy daily schedules and allow an alternative way to step away from 'doing' and into simply 'being.' Finding one which suits you is the enjoyable part and while you may not have an affinity with most of them, finding a craft which you love can be life changing.
It's important to remember that mindfulness is a form of self care, Self care isn't selfish, it's essential. Taking the necessary steps to look after our self in turn means we are able to look after others. It is the only way we can take care of each other; you can't pour from an empty cup. Only we can choose what happens next and how we spend our time, so why not spend it doing something you love.