So You Want to Learn More About… Mindfulness
According to a recent, self-conducted survey, Endeavour College found almost half (46%) of participants cared more about their health now than before the pandemic. Almost two-thirds (61%) wanted to learn more about health to better care for themselves and their loved ones. It led to the college launching its first suite of short courses – designed to be “relevant and life-applicable” while also empowering students to “take control of [their] own learning”.
In this series, created in partnership with our good friends at Endeavour, we’re taking a deep dive into these short courses – to learn more about what the suites entail and expand our knowledge from credible sources. The second of Endeavour’s four suites is mental health and wellness, so we caught up with lecturer and registered counsellor Kellie Dedman who is passionate about holistic practice, mindfulness and helping her clients to achieve happy and fulfilling lives through behavioural change.
Going behind the buzzword, what does mindfulness mean to you?
Mindfulness to me means bringing purposeful non-judgemental attention to the present moment. Whether that is being present with those around me, taking the time to stop and do nothing or when completing otherwise mundane daily tasks. I strive to make mindfulness a part of my daily life to ensure a healthy mind, maintain resilience and continue to develop my wellbeing.
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When did you discover the benefits of mindfulness in your own life?
My true discovery and love of mindfulness came at a time when I was experiencing changes in life and feeling the mental and physical effects of these changes. It became apparent to me that I needed to implement something in my life to help boost my health, resilience and wellbeing. Having knowledge of the benefits of mindfulness for mental health and wellbeing, I started to explore it further and look for ways to learn more and implement practices into my life. My exploration for knowledge and my passion for mindfulness have taken me as far as Cambodia where I stayed at a yoga and meditation retreat. While there I participated in daily yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices. The experience was nothing short of amazing and helped to further grow my practice and the benefits that came with it. Over the years I have found practices that work for me and my lifestyle and the benefits to my mental health and wellbeing have been evident.
Mindfulness to me means bringing purposeful non-judgemental attention to the present moment. Whether that is being present with those around me, taking the time to stop and do nothing or when completing otherwise mundane daily tasks.
Do you think the growing popularity of mindfulness sees it being misinterpreted?
In my experience, I find in most cases mindfulness is understood or the basic concepts such as ‘being present in the moment’ and ‘breathing exercises’ are understood. What I have noticed, however, is while there is some understanding as to what mindfulness is, the misinterpretation is often in why to practise mindfulness and the extensive research and proven health benefits that come from incorporating this practice into your daily life. The amazing benefits of mindfulness can range from reducing depression, anxiety and stress to promoting sleep, emotional regulation, memory, pain management, resilience and, ultimately, wellbeing.
What does mindfulness look like in your average day?
Busy lifestyles can often mean practices such as mindfulness can be put aside for tasks that can be seen as ‘more important’. I often hear from students and clients that taking time daily to incorporate mindfulness is difficult or unattainable for a lot of people when you consider family, work and other responsibilities. However, with these busy lifestyles, we see the stress and negative effects on an individual’s wellbeing and resilience and this emphasises more than ever the importance of bringing mindfulness to our daily lives. As someone who works full-time with a family, I understand the time restraints often experienced in today’s busy world.
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So how do I overcome a busy lifestyle and find that time? For me, it’s incorporating being mindful into my daily tasks. I think most people can relate to those moments when we’re washing the dishes, putting on a load of laundry or having a shower. Our minds often focus on other tasks we need to tend to, maybe worrying about something that happened that day, or may happen tomorrow and going over it in our heads. These everyday tasks for me are a time to be mindful, bring myself to the present and incorporate my senses. I always make a point to smell those liquids and soaps in the supermarket and find one I enjoy the smell of. You could even make something with your favourite essential oils. While washing the dishes or taking a shower, I will feel the water on my hands and skin, and the warmth and texture of the bubbles or soap. I will take in the smell of the dishwashing liquid or soap. Does it smell sweet, fruity or like something else? I will take in the sound of the water swishing or running and the other sounds around me. What can I see? Is the soap bubbly or coloured? We can bring this to many different elements of our lives. There are many different ways to be mindful and practice mindfulness. What is important is trying different practices and finding what works for you.
above KELLIE DEDMAN
What are the six dimensions of wellness?
Our wellbeing can be seen as an evolving practice with capabilities we can develop and utilise. Here are six capabilities you can work on to develop and maintain your wellbeing.
This is an important one as paying attention is going to help to develop the other five capabilities further. Paying attention refers to focusing your attention on mindful exploring and investigation of the present moment. Through using mindfulness, meditation and paying attention to focus, you bring yourself to the here and now, exploring your experience from moment to moment in the present. This capability also allows for our development of self-awareness and self-management.
Understanding your emotions
Here we are talking about emotional intelligence, which is the ability to recognise and understand our emotions as we experience them. Through mindfulness and focussed attention, we can start to build and continue to develop our emotional intelligence and effectively understand and identify emotions.
So how does developing emotional intelligence enhance wellbeing? With emotional intelligence we are able to identify the emotion we are experiencing, bringing an understanding of that emotion to our present situation which then increases our ability to regulate emotions in the present as we experience them. Through effective emotional regulation, we enhance our wellbeing as we are not getting lost in emotions we may find difficult to cope with.
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Coping with stress/developing resilience
From time to time, life can give us challenges and take us through life-changing events. Resilience is our ability to adapt and ‘bounce back’ from the adversities we experience in life. Building resilience is important for maintaining wellbeing and there are many ways we can develop our resilience. Stress can often be something we experience daily in our busy lives so finding skills and strategies for coping with and reducing stress is a great step in beginning to develop your resilience.
Setting goals and healthy habits
You may have noticed when you are working towards goals and developing healthy habits you feel good within yourself and motivated. Goal setting can also further build on our persistence, perseverance, engagement and self-regulation. Remember when setting goals to break them down and make them achievable. Here’s a great way to do this:
Specific: Define your goal and make it clear.
Measurable: How will you measure if you are working towards achieving this goal?
Achievable: Make sure your goal is something you can achieve.
Realistic: Is your goal realistic and relevant to you?
Timely: Define a time or target for achieving your goal.
And don’t forget to write your goal out. This way you can revisit it as needed.
Identifying and using your strengths
We all have amazing strengths and abilities. Understanding what your strengths are and focusing on these will help in your pursuit to develop wellbeing. For some of us strengths can be hard to identify in ourselves, especially with that inner critic in our heads. A great way to build self-awareness here is to ask family members and friends what they see our strengths as being. This can often be a great insight.
Developing social skills
Social skills and wellbeing are characterised by our meaningful connections to others. This includes our families, friends, work colleagues and connections to our community.
Building resilience is important as it increases our ability to adapt and ‘bounce back’ from the adversities we experience in life. There are many ways to build on our resilience – gratitude and compassion are just two of the building blocks we can use.
What are some practical ways we can manage day-to-day stress?
There are many ways to manage stress, from problem- and emotion-focused coping to guided meditations and cognitive behavioural strategies. However, my go-to is breathing exercises for stress reduction. Not only are they beneficial in helping you re-focus while reducing tension and overwhelm, but you can also do them anywhere, at any time, and no one needs to know you are doing them.
Here is my go-to breathing exercise for stress reduction:
- Start by breathing in and out slowly. One breath cycle should last for approximately four seconds.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, noticing your breath as it flows in and out of your body.
- Let go of your thoughts and concentrate on your breath, counting in for four and out for four.
- Purposefully watch your breath. Notice the cool air as it enters through your nose and the warmth as you breathe out through your mouth.
- Do this for as long as you need to bring yourself back to the present moment and feel your mind and body relax.
Why are resilience, compassion and gratitude so important for balanced living?
Building resilience is important as it increases our ability to adapt and ‘bounce back’ from the adversities we experience in life. There are many ways to build on our resilience – gratitude and compassion are just two of the building blocks we can use. Gratitude is a great way to build resilience as it increases positive emotions and the ability to cope with stress. It invites us to mindfully take the time to think about what we are grateful for in our lives. Compassion has also been shown to have many health benefits that increase positive emotions and wellbeing. When we are able to incorporate gratitude, compassion and resilience into our lives, they increase wellbeing and help develop a balanced life.
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What’s the best way to ensure lifestyle changes remain sustainable and for the long term?
Start with making goals to work towards those changes you want to make. Ensure they are realistic and achievable, otherwise, you can become disheartened, lose focus and abandon them. I always encourage setting goals with your personal values in mind. When something is important to you and in line with what you value, you’re more likely to stick with it. Take time to stop and reflect on how you are going and how you are feeling. When lifestyle changes are working and you can feel the benefits, you are more likely to be motivated to continue. Most importantly, take time to care for yourself! When we don’t take care of ourselves, we become burned out meaning we can lose motivation and focus.