Like Andrew, you may be sceptical about some of the ideas about mindfulness.
You may (rightly in my view) be sceptical about what is being termed ‘McMindfulness’, the global commoditisation of an ancient Buddhist practice that seems to offer an escapist panacea to all pressure.
But alongside its widespread commercialisation, many have found the practice of mindfulness helpful.
And as we’ve seen, the practice of mindfulness has been associated with greater personal happiness, more energy, less anxiety and a sense of greater control over what happens.
Sometimes it’s useful to press the ‘pause’ button and reflect on what’s going on.
Maybe try out the following focus exercise:
All you have to be able to do is to count up to five.
Using the fingers of one hand and spending about one minute on each finger:
1 Concentrate on your breathing.
Don’t try to force anything, just listen to your breathing.
2 Notice any bodily sensations that you might be feeling.
Go gradually from your toes to the top of your head.
Be aware of any feelings of discomfort or pressure.
3 Try to label any emotions you may be experiencing.
This is likely to be the most difficult part.
Emotions are vague and ephemeral.
They are likely to merge with bodily sensations, like an anxious knot in the stomach, a tightness of the throat, or pressure in the head.
If it’s difficult to name the emotions, then maybe think about the six basic emotional labels.
4 What are you thinking about?
What ideas and thoughts are on your mind?
Most people will find that during this kind of exercise they will be distracted by thoughts.
When you realise that you’ve lost concentration, just return to the exercise and allow the thoughts to fall away.
5 Then for the last minute or so return to concentrating on breathing.
Just listen to your breath going in and out.
This exercise can be particularly useful if you are about to go into a difficult or unfamiliar situation, for example an interview, a difficult meeting or courtroom.
Once you’re reasonably familiar with the activity, you can limit the exercise to five breaths,
(1) simply being aware of your breathing,
(2) a quick body scan for physical sensations,
(3) noticing any strong emotion,
(4) thinking about your thoughts (although you will probably be thinking so much that you may just be aware of all the thoughts that are around), and
(5) return to be aware of your breathing.
(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)