We’re sure you are know of the concept of meditation, but are you familiar with the technique and the practice? Have you tried it yourself? In this article Judith Allen takes us through some of the basics of mindfulness and meditation, tells us about her experience, and how taking a break has helped her towards productivity.

After spending Friday morning panicking frantically about being a grown up, trying to pick a decent outfit from the mountains of used clothes that scattered my floor, and downloading every self help book that was free on my Kindle, I finally stopped, sat down on the one clean patch in my room, and took a deep breath.

Focusing on my breathing, and shifting my mind away from the negative thoughts racing through my head, may not have seemed the best use of my time when I was running so very late, but over the year’s mindfulness has saved me hours of time.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation, originally derived from Buddhist practices, that has been increasingly used in western psychology since the 1970’s.

Mindfulness involves focusing your mind solely on the present moment. The rhythm of your breathing, the faint rush of far away traffic, the feel of the seat near you behind. In allowing our minds to focus solely on the present moment we free ourselves from the crippling worries of the future and the traumatic memories of our past.

As students we tend to leap from one thought to another, with no logical sequence. Struggles with a particular essay, can lead to thoughts of what if we fail our degree, to questioning what are we going to do with our degree anyway. Before we know it we are wading through the deep depressing waters of Indeed.com looking at horrible job vacancies thought up from the 7th pit of hell. The essay that needed doing today is completely forgotten as we get lost in our worries about future job prospects.

Instead of our minds jumping from one thought to the next in no logical sequence, training our mind to focus on the present moment also means we are better able to focus on the task in hand.

I tend to mediate by finding a quiet space where I am comfortable. I sit in a comfortable position, usually cross legged- or if I have the time and the space I do a few basic easy yoga stretches. If you look on YouTube you can find plenty of 5-10 minute yoga videos for beginners, just pick which ever one suits you.

The most important part of meditation is breathing. You have to take slow deep breaths right from your diaphragm. Breathing properly works like a betablocker and does wonders in calming your body. When we breath properly we allow our heart rate to slow and for more oxygen to get in our blood, reducing the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Then I just focus on breathing, trying to let go of any worries or thoughts, but allowing myself to accept that my mind might wander. If your mind wanders that’s okay. If my mind is to frantic to focus on my breathing alone I try to focus on five things I can see, five things I can hear and so on.

Focusing on the present moment, on your breathing and just the little aspects of everyday life around you is what mindfulness is all about. In focusing on the present, on what is good about the here and now we’re allowing ourselves to let go of the the things we have no control over, the past and the future.

When we stop worrying about what the future will hold we are more likely to take a leap, to try that society, apply for that position, write that essay, distractions be dammed.

It may seem counter productive to spend 10 minutes sitting cross legged and focusing on our breathing, but in taking time to rid our minds of the worries that paralyses us, we are much better able to fully engage in our present lives and become productive within them.