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Mind the gap

Ever feel like you’re missing a great experience? The answer could be to live in the moment, according to mindfulness expert Gill Hasson

Mindfulness is having a spotlight moment, with the technique currently sitting top of the self-help league. Models, actresses, sports stars, even health professionals extol the virtues of mindfulness for tackling mental health, fighting cancers and offering a boon to anti-ageing. Given the buzz, it may come as something of a surprise to some that mindfulness’ roots lie in Buddhism, one of the first cultures to recognise the value of truly experiencing everyday events. “It’s like many other concepts before it, such as assertiveness and emotional intelligence, it is enjoying the spotlight and is bang on trend right now,” says Gill Hasson, author of the Mindfulness Pocketbook: Little exercises for a calmer life. “But when you look at the idea of mindfulness to manage your feelings, it’s common sense.

“I don’t write about Buddhism in my book and although mindfulness is familiar to Buddhists, it’s a technique that can be learned by anyone. It can help us with many aspects of today’s busy world. In large part, technology is designed to take us away from living in the moment and 
prevent us from absorbing what’s going on around us, so putting devices aside and focusing on the moment in hand can be hugely powerful and transformational. “On the other hand, technology isn’t the enemy, and certain apps can help mindfulness. I was on a walking holiday last year and a bell rang on someone’s phone which they explained was an app that rings at random times to encourage them to just stop and think about what is happening all around them.

The two can work in harmony.” Hasson’s book is packed with tips to incorporate the technique into all aspects of life, from relationships and work, to food, eating and coping with everyday stress. “I found it interesting to think of different situations and see how we could apply mindfulness,” says Hasson. “Small children do it naturally – if you’ve ever stood over a child saying, ‘hurry up and put your shoes on, we’ve got to go’, you might be met with a quizzical, ‘why?’ They are completely absorbed by the task of getting their shoes on and fastened, and there is no thought about the next moment.

“Animals do it too – a cat focuses on eating from his bowl; then he will wander outside, sit in the sun and sleep. There is nothing more determined about his movements than enjoying each of those individual sensations in turn. “What can we learn from them? Slow down. Cut out what you ‘have to do’ and tackle each thing individually.

You can train your mind to think differently and build up your skill at being mindful. The more you do it, the better you will become at the technique, so use the pocketbook to pick out several ideas that appeal to you and give it a go.” Gill Hasson is author of the Mindfulness Pocketbook: Little exercises for a calmer life by Capstone.

Three apps to try

Headspace (headspace.com) Gym membership for the mind. Sign up for free or take out an annual membership for £4.99 per month with unlimited access to the Headspace Collection for year-round content.

Smiling mind (smilingmind.com.au) An Australian app with a clever meditation-based focus aimed particularly at young people.

Buddhify (buddhify.com) 80 guided meditations for daily support.

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