Have you ever been somewhere and as you’ve recognised that place, a whole host have memories come flooding back to you? Do you connect certain memories with certain places? Do you reconise the meaning that different places hold for you?

I was thinking about this recently, when on my regular commute to work, I spotted the Virgin train headed for Bournemouth. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at it or had a second thought, but memories of happy times spent on Bournemouth’s beaches came flooding back to me. These memories were bittersweet for me but simply seeing that train triggered flashbacks to wonderful moments spent walking along the shore, eating ice-cream in the gardens and swimming in the sea.

Similarly, when walking the dogs, I sometimes walk past the canal. This has often triggered memories of my childhood and times spent with my Father, on his boat, fishing on the canals or on one occasion canoeing up the canal with him walking alongside me! That said, being close to any body of water reminds me of my Father and his love of all things nautical – most likely where I got my love of the sea!

If I go in the garden, or to a garden centre, I often end up thinking of my best friend, who now, as an accomplished allotmenteer and Allotment Site Manager, has a similar passion to me, for all things green. Now whenever I see anything to do with “Growing Your Own” or GYO or if I see seed catalogues or adverts or magazines to do with kitchen gardening, he immediately springs to mind.

Whilst this can be a handy tool if you’re, for example, looking for a birthday present for somebody (!) or just taking a leisurely stroll down memory lane, it can sometimes be a double-edged sword that brings back not only the images of memories but also the emotions  might tag along with them.

If you successfully gotten over a break-up or “moved on” with your life after a difficult period, having such flashbacks can sometimes feel like a kick in the stomach. However, this is where mindfulness comes in.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment or as Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Whilst there isn’t a switch you can flick to suddenly become mindful, it is an art and a skill that when practiced, can be extremely beneficial. It is very popular at the moment within the psychological field as demonstrated by the increasing popularity and interest in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy or MBCT. This is now available in some areas on the NHS and there are an increasing number of private courses available that teach clients the basic principles of mindfulness and its practice.

I undertook an MBCT course last year. It lasted 8 weeks and during that time, whilst much of it did consist of a form of meditation, I learned to “be” with myself and to accept myself and what “I” was bringing up – whether that was from my subconscious to my conscious mind, whether it was simply daydreaming or whether I was just listening and subsequently hearing, and processing the sounds around me and in my environment. (How often have you tried counting how many sounds you can hear in any one moment?! It’s quite an eye-opener!)

By being mindful, we can learn to recognise what comes up within ourselves – an emotion, a feeling, a sense of either uneasiness, relaxation, happiness, joy, pain, distress or pleasure – and acknowledge it. “Yes, I do feel upset that I was just ignored by my friend but that’s ok. It’s ok to feel upset.” This in itself, can help us to not escalate when in fact it may be quite unnecessary (How often have you “gone off on one” only to realise you got completely the wrong end of the stick?!) – perhaps the friend did not see you, perhaps they are upset themselves and distracted or as is often the case in today’s technological society, perhaps they had headphones on!

Being able to apply mindfulness to exactly those moments that otherwise might be a little overwhelming, is priceless. You are in the driving seat and you are in control of where you go. So whether it’s Chipping Sodbury or Piddlehinton that you’re off to, enjoy the ride and the memories!