So, I’m really excited about this post as it is my first collaborative post. I chose the topic of mindfulness as it is something, I am already learning about myself and I’m fast becoming hooked. As I mentioned in a previous post I am currently doing an 8 week course in MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, I am only half way through and I have already been able to apply the techniques and ideas I have learnt in my everyday life to great benefit.
Knowing I wanted to write more about mindfulness and it’s benefits I decided to find an expert on the subject who could share more information about it. I asked Matt Alfonso, an experienced mindfulness coach, to answer a few questions that I though many of those new to mindfulness may also be interested in having answered. Matt kindly agreed to share his wisdom and here are his thoughts.
If you are like me, before I learnt more about mindfulness, I thought it was only about meditating, this is not the full story as Matt explains.
“Mindfulness is living in the present. It is about seeing what is arising in this moment without judgement. We certainly want to be mindful during meditation but we also want to be mindful throughout our entire day. We want to be mindful when we are walking down the street by noticing our surroundings and what is arising. We want to be mindful when we are with others by giving people our full attention. We want to be mindful with our thoughts by noticing what they are and being able to change or reframe them at times.”
What is actually meant by “living in the present”?
“To live in the current moment. To be aware of what is arising in a non-judgmental way.“
You may be wondering if mindfulness is something you can learn on your own or whether it requires you to spend time with an expert teacher or coach.
“You can learn and develop mindfulness on your own by practicing meditation, focusing on the present moment and giving people your full attention. Having a coach or teacher is valuable in helping you stay on track, teach you skills and answering your questions. A teacher or coach can help you progress at a faster pace.“
Can mindfulness really help to reduce anxiety? And if so how?
“A lot of anxiety is caused by worrying about the future. Practicing mindfulness allows you to spend more of your time living in the present moment. Then when your mind does start to worry about the future it allows you to be aware of this quicker and then in a kind and loving way bring it back to the present.”
Can mindfulness help with other mental health issues such as depression or OCD?
“Yes, the science is very clear that mindfulness can reduce the risk of depression and OCD. There have been numerous studies from around the world that have shown mindfulness to improve happiness, reduce stress, increase concentration and memory, help with emotional intelligence, and many other benefits.”
Something I personally wated to ask Matt about is whether children can learn mindfulness techniques. There seems to be so much pressure on young people today that it is bound to take its toll on their mental health. Could mindfulness be a potential way to support youngsters who struggle in this area?
“Yes, absolutely! I believe that it is vital that we teach mindfulness in elementary school through high school. Students can learn the importance of being aware of their thoughts and then change their thoughts from negative to positive. This can greatly improve their self-esteem and capabilities. Students can also learn to respond more effectively to a certain trigger. For instance, when something upsetting happens, they can connect to the breath and gather themselves before responding. “
So, now you have learnt more about mindfulness, and you would like to give it a go yourself. But where should you begin?
“Through short meditations that focus on the breath or simple breathing exercises. Start small with 5 minutes or less. Starting with becoming aware of the breath and being able to work with the breath is a great foundation.”
A big thank you to Matt for taking the time to answer these questions for this post. To find out more about his work you can visit his website at www.mattalfonso.com and follow him on Instagram, @mattalfonso1.
Thanks for reading.