12 Sep Six ways to practise mindfulness…and meditation is just one!
Mindfulness has hit mainstream media. It is fully accepted that we can now talk about mindfulness and not be branded a hippie! Thank goodness for that. I was concerned for a couple of years there that I was going to be forced to grow my armpit hair and invest in a pair of harem trousers!
So why is mindfulness now such a widely accepted activity? And why now?
We are stressed! We have more to deal with than ever before and are therefore living in a state of stress without really realising it! Technology should be making our lives easier but we are expected to do more, do it quicker and we are struggling to switch off! EVER! The pressures of modern day living is causing cortisol to flood our bodies and this is having severe physical impacts.
We are unfulfilled! More and more of us are living lives disconnected to who we are and who we want to be! We get so sucked in to the “treadmill effect”; continuously going but but rarely stopping to think if what we are doing is really making us happy. Society’s definition of success (wealth, status, power) is enticing but it is important to realise that success is not a one size fits all package.
We are experiencing less joy in the day-to-day! We are essentially asleep at the wheel, in a constant state of autopilot! We are so focussed on pushing towards an end goal that it is preventing us from experiencing life and all of its joys!
So, we are up against these modern day pressures and lucky for us we have saviour for all of these issues. The saviour is mindfulness! Ariana Huffington sums up mindfulness in a beautifully succinct paragraph below…
“Mindfulness is the ability to do things, knowing that we are doing them. In other words, becoming completely aware of the moment, as we are in it. The opposite of being on autopilot, or just doing things out of habit. Mindfulness can help us to be fully present and in the moment, even in hectic circumstances.”
For me, mindfulness is a way of getting me out of my head, dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, and into the present moment. It is a way to calm my mind for long enough that I can think more clearly and react in a more thoughtful way to the situations in my life. Through practising mindfulness, we can actually build a habit that changes our brain and the way we think enabling us to better manage stress, increase moments of joy and improve overall life satisfaction!
Are you sold yet?! I know it sounds way too good to be true so you’re just going to have to give it a whirl yourselves. There are many many ways of incorporating mindfulness into your life and building this very important habit of present moment awareness. Below are six of my favourite simple techniques to incorporate mindfulness into your lives:
1. Daily habits
Creating mindful moments throughout your day using existing habits. For example, take a daily routine like brushing your teeth and make it a daily mindful habit. As opposed to brushing your teeth whilst your mind wanders to everything you have to get done that day, take this time to be conscious of the sensations of brushing your teeth. The taste of the toothpaste, the feel of your toothbrush on your tongue, the smell of the mint, the temperature of the water etc. Use this routine every day to bring a moment of mindfulness into your day and the action of paying attention and bringing your mind back to the moment will strengthen your brain.
This may involve taking 5 minutes out of your day to either write down the things you are grateful for or just reflect on them in your head. You could do this when you first wake up or before you go to bed or even when you are driving to work and your mind is usually already stressing about your first meeting of the day. What comes up for you that you are grateful for each day – places you’ve travelled to, people who make you feel loved, the comfort of your home, or small things such as a kind gesture from a stranger, the colours ion the morning sunrise or the taste of your morning coffee? How can we not feel fulfilled and content when we concentrate on all the things that we DO have in our lives as opposed to what we don’t have?
3. Mindful eating
Using meal times as a time to be fully present can be beneficial in so many ways. Trying just one mealtime initially to sit at the table and experience your meal through all of your senses – how does it look, taste, smell, feel in your mouth? Not only does this practise allow us to strengthen our mind but it allows us to really tune in to the body’s needs and consider what your body needs for nourishment and how your body reacts to different foods. It gets us out of the habit and negates the impact of autopilot / on the go eating.
4. Mindful movement
Exercise is such a great stress reliever for so many of us, however, sometimes exercise can actually contribute more stress to our bodies. i.e. If we are feeling over worked and burnt out, our bodies may need to restore themselves and therefore a hardcore HITT session is not going to be beneficial. Mindful movement allows us to connect the mind to the body and create an awareness of how the body feels and what it needs in the form of movement at that point in time. As you move your body (in whatever form of exercise feels good for you at that moment) connect to your senses, feel your feet on the ground, the different parts of the body that are being engaged and how you are feeling through movement. If you are going for a walk, use this as an opportunity to take in all of your surroundings.
5. Self care
Brainstorm a list of activities that both restore you and re-energise you and schedule these activities regularly into your diary. When you are in your “flow” and doing things that light you up, you are so much likely to be in the present moment as you are fully absorbed in what you are doing. Your mind is less distracted with what your ‘to-do” lists and worrying about the future.
Meditation does not mean sitting on the edge of a mountain in lotus position for hours at a time! Meditation is the act of focussing your mind inwards and the upside is engaging that all important parasympathetic nervous system and reversing the impact of cortisol on our bodies. Meditation could involve any of the following so try out some of the suggestions below and go with what works best for you:
Taking long, deep breaths – focussing on your breath and where you feel it in your body.
Scanning your body – becoming aware of the different areas of your body, where you feel tension and where you feel relaxed. Not judging these feeling just noticing as you scan slowly from your head to your toes resting upon every area of your body.
Guided meditation – this is often the easiest way to kickstart your meditation journey. There are so many resources on YouTube and apps to download. My recommendation would be to download the “Headspace” app for a free trial in guided meditation.
Please note, no-one is “good” or “bad” at mindfulness!! If your mind is full and constantly running away when you are supposed to be meditating, this is not a failure! The benefits of mindfulness come in noticing when your mind is running away from you and bringing your awareness back to your breath, your body or your senses. I can have days where my mind is all over the show!! But all I will say is that I persevere and my days are always better when I incorporate some form of mindfulness into my mornings!
We are always running workshops on bringing more mindfulness into your lives so please contact us if you’d like to hear more.