people looking at a mind with ladder
Last night, Mindfulness expert and co-founder of Mindfulness CIC gave her insight into what mindfulness is, the benefits of it and how you can practice it to help your emotional and mental wellbeing. We gained an understanding of how mindfulness can help us to recognise, process and manage our emotions. 
Gaynor Quilter worked at a senior level in charities for over 20 years. She co-founded Mindfulness CIC in 2013, where she teaches and coaches. She started practicing mindfulness after the death of her mum, 17 years ago. She built a daily practice that's supports her to stay balanced and purposeful.  
What is mindfulness?  
Gaynor started by asking us to do a minute of silence. She explained that in essence, this is what mindfulness is - the ability to tune in to the present moment - the cultivation of presence. Whilst in the present, we can notice and accept different thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Mindfulness is based on a tradition of over 2000 years but Gaynor explained that the most important evidence that mindfulness works is our own experience.  
What isn't mindfulness? 
Mindfulness is not about trying to get rid of anything. We don't try and push away any unpleasant thoughts or feelings. We don't try to achieve a "blank mind" as many people think. Instead, mindfulness is about acknowledging and accepting both pleasant and unpleasant thoughts or feelings.  
The benefits of mindfulness 
People tend to experience different benefits of practicing mindfulness but some common examples are: 
A sense of relaxation and calmness 
Gaining a fresh perspective 
Learning how to be OK with pleasant and unpleasant emotions 
Noticing bodily sensations which require attention e.g. tense shoulders 
Acknowledge reactive emotions e.g. anger and having the space to process them and respond in a more thought-through manner 
A greater appreciation of our surroundings 
The Mindfulness of Breathing 
Gaynor then introduced us to what she described as "the most basic yet most difficult mindfulness exercise." This was a 10-minute exercise in which we focused on not trying to change or control our breathing, but just noticing it's pattern and being at ease with any thought pattern or feeling we may have. Our members had a variety of experiences during this practice. One said they noticed an extremely heavy feeling throughout their head, neck and shoulders however another said they felt a floating sensation. Another member recalled how they found the exercise difficult as they found it hard to connect to the present moment, and someone else said they found it more relaxing than they expected.  
The ABC Practice 
We were then taught the ABC practice which is a quick mindfulness exercise which we can do anywhere. We stood up and took the time to acknowledge our bodily sensations, senses, emotions and thoughts. We then focused on our breathing and connecting to our body whilst extending this connection to others.  
Gaynor Quilter gave an excellent insight into how we can use mindfulness easily in everyday life whilst defining what it is and what it isn't as well as the benefits. We hope to have her back in the future for more Refocus events.  
Our next event is on the 10th of March and our founder, Linda Neville is going to be covering resilience. She will be explaining fear-setting and demonstrating how it can help us push through barriers and achieve our goals. This event is open to Strive members only. 
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