How to switch off auto-pilot

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Looking up and being ‘mindful’ of surrounds is a key part of the process

Mindfulness is one of those terms which you hear more and more of, with dozens of apps promising to help you harness the power of your intellect.

But what is it, who does it help and how can you practise it?

The most simple way to explain it is to stop that feeling of your intellect being “full”.

Oxford University’s Professor Willem Kuyken is the director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. He describes mindfulness as “a natural capability we all have and can all develop”.

“It’s about greater awareness and having the greater ability to be in the present moment, without judgement, but with curiosity, kindness and care, ” he tells the BBC.

A lot is known about how best to keep our bodies accommodate, but Prof Kuyken says it’s just as important to keep the mind healthy, adding: “We’ve stimulated enormous progress in the past 50 years in terms of physical health, and people now live well for longer. But the next question is how people can live longer and be mentally well.”

It can be used therapeutically – for example for those with chronic health problems or mental health issues – but anyone can benefit from it, says Prof Kuyken.

“Mindfulness is done through a whole range of meditative practises, all helping us become more aware and pay more attention, ” he explains. “It’s about being responsive rather than merely being on auto-pilot.”

So how do we do that?


How to be more mindful

Notice the everyday – engage your senses, for example to think about the food you ate and the feeling of the air moving past as “youre walking” Choose a regular time for your practice, for example during your morning commute or on a lunchtime walk Try seeing things from another perspective. This can be as simple as choosing a different seat at school, college or in a run meeting, or going somewhere new for lunch Watch your thoughts – assure them as “mental events” and let them come and go in your intellect, like bus Name your thoughts and feelings to get more awareness, for example recognising “this is anxiety” As well as practising in day-to-day life, you can set aside time for mindfulness meditation, yoga or tai-chi Image caption Children have a natural curiosity – adults could learn a lesson or two from them Image caption Luckily, assuming this pose is not necessary

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