But first, a bit of context…
For those of you that don’t know, I named my blog mindyourstyle because my advice is founded upon the principles of mindfulness.
But what is mindfulness exactly? There are many mixed messages out there about what mindfulness is and whether there are any benefits to practising mindfulness in your daily life. This can all get VERY confusing!! So that’s why I invited Mindfulness Teacher and Positive Psychologist (or Happiness Scientist as she likes to say), Annika Rose for an interview to clarify some mindfulness myths and explain the science behind the benefits of being mindful, to give you a better understanding of the theory behind the ‘mind’ in ‘mindyourstyle’.
Interview with Annika
Thanks for agreeing to do this interview Annika, before we kick off can you please provide a quick bio about you and why you started your mindfulness coaching business The Wellbeing Collective?
I studied psychology in the UK and worked in mental health sector there before moving out to Australia. I continued to work in the health industry in Perth for a number of years, as I have always been incredibly passionate about mental health and wellbeing. In 2009, I started to discover a whole new branch of psychology – positive psychology – that was focussed on the science of wellbeing and happiness. This fresh, positive perspective on mind health got me excited and I decided this was the space I wanted to focus my career in moving forwards. I went to the UK to study a Masters in Positive Psychology, and was among the first in Australia to specialise in this topic. The Wellbeing Collective emerged as a result of my expertise and passion, and I have been pioneering the positive ever since.
What sparked your interest in mindfulness practice?
When I think back, I experienced many mindful moments as a teen. I simply didn’t know the level of awareness I had, had a specific name. In 2011, I went through a particularly challenging time and was seeking ways to feel less stressed and more centred. A colleague recommended I should give mindfulness meditation a go. I was curious, so I signed up to a 4 week course. I found the practice to be transformational. In the years that followed, my personal practice deepened and as I specialised in the science of wellbeing, I was fascinated to learn all about the impact and benefits of mindfulness. So much so that I ended up doing world-first research on this topic myself.
How would you define mindfulness in everyday language? What is it exactly?
It’s amazing how little of our time we spend actually ‘awake’ and present. More often than not our minds are reliving the past or rehearsing the future and we aren’t really HERE. To be mindful is to be fully present, on purpose, moment to moment, in a gentle and kind way. That means bringing all of your attention to right now and experiencing the thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds etc. exactly as they are when they unfold – as opposed to controlling or expecting things to be or go a certain way. You’re connecting to right now by fully paying attention to it, and as you do, you’re naturally becoming kinder towards yourself and others, too.
Do you think it’s important to practice mindfulness in all areas of our lives?
Mindfulness is simply all about paying attention – so we can bring this attention to whatever we’re doing while we’re conscious! While I do highly recommend people to cultivate a regular personal practice of mindfulness meditation as it builds your mindfulness skills and trains your attention, it’s important to bring this quality of attention to all areas of your life, from eating, to conversations, to moving, to dressing. You’ll notice when you’re living mindfully and creating more mindful moments, that experiences are so much richer and rewarding!
What do you see as some of the common myths around mindfulness practice? Can you bust these myths for us?
There are a number of misconceptions surrounding mindfulness practice. One of the most common is that you have to sit cross legged, when in fact there are a number of sitting positions you can try! If you don’t like sitting – you can also meditate while standing, walking or lying down. The main thing is to find a comfortable yet alert position that works well for you. The second is that you have to sit and meditate for hours at once in a silent space. Again, not true. You definitely can if you want to, but as per above, you can do plenty of day to day activities mindfully too. This is a more informal way of practicing mindfulness. And thirdly, you don’t need to have a certain belief system in order to practice mindfulness meditation. While the practices are rooted in Buddhist traditions, you are ultimately training your attention to go where you want it to, and to do that doesn’t require you to believe in anything in particular!
What is the latest evidence saying about the benefits of being mindful in our everyday lives?
There is tonnes of scientific evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness-based practices on physical and mental health. Studies have shown that people who are trained to become more mindful are overall happier, less stressed, enjoy more positive relationships, and can focus on tasks for longer too. One study even found the more you meditate the more profound changes there are in certain brain regions that help us to feel calmer, more insightful and empathic. I think that’s fascinating!
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start incorporating mindfulness into their everyday lives?
A simple way to become more mindful is to use your senses as this brings you into the here and now when you do. A simple exercise I like to share with my clients is to have a mindful coffee in the morning. Rather than rushing around and gulping down your morning brew on the go, bring your senses to the experience for up to a minute. What can you smell? How warm is the cup? What does the blend taste like? What does it feel like as you take a sip? Bringing your attention to it even for a short time will help you to become more aware and over time as it becomes a habit, you’ll naturally start to take this focus into other experiences throughout your day.
Thanks for sharing all your valuable insights on the topic of mindfulness! Can you please share with us some details about any upcoming Wellbeing Collective events and services that you provide in relation to mindfulness?
Not a problem Monika. Happy to share.
- Forregular tips,tools and wellbeing goodness, subscribe via our website: thewellbeingcollective.com
- For 1 to 1 mindfulness and wellbeing coaching sessions email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started
- To book me as a speaker at your next event, visit thewellbeingcollective.com/speaker
- I also write about all things wellbeing for Mindfulness Magazine ‘In the Moment’ available in selected newsagents across the UK / USA / Europe / Australia, or subscribe digitally here.
Got any questions or comments about this blog post? Please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
Yours in Style,