Mindfulness without necessarily meditating? an ACTive perspective

“mindfulness can be done at anytime, anywhere, and does not have to involve long meditations or meditation at all! in fact ACTive mindfulness is instead often about short and entertaining exercises to increase awareness, focus and openness in a fun and interactive way…..its about noticing when you have gone off track and knowing how to get yourself back…… it’s also about learning to fully enjoy the little things in the moment”

A current trend in the media as well as a topic of conversation in Western psychology is the idea of mindfulness. Tracing it’s roots back to ancient religions such as Buddhism it is increasingly recognised as a powerful therapeutic intervention for everything from work related stress to ADHD or depression.  It has also been seen as an effective tool for increasing your potential and emotional intelligence.

“Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, focus and openness to experience which allows you to fully engage in what you are doing at any moment. In a state of mindfulness, difficult thoughts and feelings such as impulsivity, anxiety, frustration have much less impact and influence over you – so it is hugely useful for everything from full-blown psychiatric illness to enhancing athletic or business performance.”

I have called the type of mindfulness practised at my retreats ACTive mindfulness as it comes from an ACT perspective ( see the article below to read more about ACT).  What this means is :

MIndfulness is often taught through meditation however meditation is only one way amongst hundreds of learning these skills!  ACT and ACTive mindfulness gives you a huge variety of tools and experiences to learn mindfulness. Many of these tools only need a few minutes to get the hang of and can be really fun and active in your daily life. This could be for instance learning to focus on the taste, feelings and emotions related to food when you are eating to get pleasure out of this time instead of rushing through thinking about what else you have on and getting to the end having realized you didn’t even enjoy yourself in the present moment.

These can be broken down into 3 categories:

1) Letting go: distancing from unhelpful thoughts, beliefs and memories

2) Acceptance: Knowing that we are human and will therefore likely experience the full range of human emotions. So in turn we can make room for painful feelings, urges and sensations, allowing them to come and go rather than struggling with them and trying to control them

3) Living in the Now: experiencing fully your present experience, with an attitude of openness and curiosity

These 3 skills require you to use an aspect of yourself which we often call the ‘observing self’. We can talk about ‘self’ in many ways, but in common everyday language we talk mainly about the ‘physical self’ – your body – and the ‘thinking self’ – your mind. The ‘observing self’ is the part of you that is able to observe both your physical self and your thinking self. A better term, in my opinion, is ‘pure awareness’ – because that’s all it is: just awareness, nothing else. It is the part of you that is aware of everything else: aware of every thought, every feeling, everything you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and do.


ACT! Get out of your mind and into your life

“Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Training (ACT) is a unique and creative approach to getting you into the life you want which alters the very ground rules of most Western therapy. It is a mindfulness-based, values-oriented behavioural therapy, that has many parallels to Buddhism, yet is not religious in any way; it is a modern scientific approach, firmly based on cutting-edge research into human behavioural psychology”

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Training (ACT) gets it name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. It has been developed within a coherent theoretical and philosophical framework that promotes psychological flexibility. Psychological flexibility means being in the present moment fully, based on what the situation affords, changing or persisting your behavior in the service of your chosen values.

The aim of ACT is to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life. ACT (which is pronounced as the word ‘act’, not as the initials) does this by:

a) teaching you psychological skills to deal with your unhelpful and often painful thoughts and feelings effectively – in such a way that they have much less impact and influence over you (these are known as mindfulness skills- although mindfulness here is NOT traditional meditation).

b) helping you to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you – i.e your values – then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better.

Some of this information has been adapted from Russ Harris ( Author of the Happiness trap). Fantastic speaker if you want to download some of his stuff from you tube and get a flavour for ACT also