What is mindfulness?

Often, we can find ourselves either thinking about things that have happened in the past or things that may happen in the future. Getting caught up in this kind of thinking can lead to low mood, depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment. By being more in the present moment, we can reduce any feelings of low mood or anxiety and enable ourselves to enjoy where we are and what we are doing. When we practice mindfulness, we are actively making the choice to slow down and really pay attention to what we are doing – be it a household chore, eating or simply sitting and being. It’s coming out of autopilot and into awareness. It can be a difficult thing to do, which is why we call it ‘practice’ as nobody ever masters it, it is always on-going. There are many apps and resources that support the practice of mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness apps:

Aura:

  • Daily micro-meditations that are only 3 minutes long.
  • Helps relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Gratitude journal.
  • Mood tracker.
  • Nature sounds.
  • Perfect if you have limited time throughout the day.

Buddhify:

  • Meditation sessions are organised by theme according to where you are in your day.
  • Can be personalised depending on what you’re up to: from waking up or taking a quick break at work to dealing with stress or having trouble falling asleep.

Calm:

  • Meditations.
  • Sleep stories to help you fall asleep.
  • Nature sounds.

Headspace:

  • Guided meditations.
  • Sleepcasts.
  • Nature sounds.
  • Everyday Headspace – meditate alongside others around the world at the same time.

Benefits of mindfulness meditation:

  • Better sleep.
  • Lowered stress levels.
  • Banish temporary negative feelings.
  • Improve attention, working memory, executive functioning and visuospatial processing.
  • Reductions in anxiety and fatigue.

Benefits of positive affirmations:

Positive affirmations are positive things we say to ourselves in order to challenge any negative thoughts we may be having about ourselves. It’s important to practice them regularly to make any long-lasting positive changes.

One of the key psychological theories behind positive affirmations is the Self-Affirmation Theory (Steele, 1988). Research has found that we are able to maintain a sense of self-integrity by affirming to ourselves what we believe using positive words or phrases.

Our self-identity is made up by the narrative we have about ourselves (Cohen and Sherman, 2014). Using positive affirmations helps this narrative to be flexible, moral and capable of adapting to different circumstances, ultimately making us more resilient.

There is MRI evidence suggesting that certain neural pathways are increased when positive affirmations are practiced (Cascio et al., 2016). Positive affirmations have been shown to decrease health-deteriorating stress (Sherman et al., 2009; Critcher & Dunning, 2015).

Positive affirmation apps:

Shine:

  • Sends positive affirmations in texts to your phone.

Bmindful:

  • Categorised positive affirmations to browse through.

Grateful:

  • Practising gratitude has been found to increase positive emotions. This app encourages reflection on things we are grateful for.

Louise Hay Affirmations:

  • The author of many self-help books.
  • Louise Hay provides lots of positive affirmations.

Yoga:

Yoga focuses on building strength and flexibility and joining your movements with your breath. Your yoga practice can be as strenuous or gentle as you want it to be. Yoga has been known to increase physical and mental well-being. It’s important to be aware of your personal limitations and don’t do anything that goes beyond your physical abilities when practising yoga. There are many websites and apps that offer yoga sessions at a price, but you can also find yoga sessions for free on YouTube. Try Yoga with Adriene.