Mindfulness is popping up all over the place. In schools, in the workplace and in classes in church halls in every town and city. That is leaving many people with the feeling that they have to go on a course to learn it. In this blog, I will share some moments of mindfulness that you can slot into every day of your life. No course required!
What is mindfulness?
John Kabat-Zinn founded Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in 1979. He developed it at the University of Massachusetts to treat the chronically ill. He defined mindfulness as, ‘the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.’ In other words, it is about bringing your thoughts into the present and noticing what is happening now. This is opposed to ruminating (past negative thinking) or worrying (future negative thinking). Mindfulness can help:
There are a whole range of courses you can attend to learn more about mindfulness. But, you can start today with my moments of mindfulness.
Some of believe that we can get more done by multi-tasking but the brain doesn’t like that. Try focusing on one thing at once and notice how much calmer you feel. You will notice your productivity improve too.
2. Eat slowly.
Every one of your senses can get involved in eating. All too often we eat so fast that we don’t even notice what we are eating. Start by cooking colourful food to ignite your sense of sight. Make the smells and flavours enjoyable to excite your nose and taste buds. As you eat, notice the sound of the food and the texture as it moves around your mouth. Get all your senses involved in every mouthful. You will feel calmer whilst eating and will feel full sooner too.
3. Experience your daily tasks.
No doubt you all had a shower this morning or last night but, did you notice the smell of the shower gel or the feel of it against your skin. All too often we rush tasks like this even if we have spent £10 of the product we are washing with. Try to slow down whilst doing some of your daily tasks. You will notice feeling calmer and enjoy more moments of happiness as you go along.
4. Put down your phone.
If you are spending time with someone, spend time WITH them. Switch off your phone, put it away and be present with enjoying the company of that person. Whatever is on your phone can wait until later. The person you are with deserves your undivided attention.
5. Use all your senses.
Whilst going about your day, ask yourself, what am I experiencing. What do you feel, see, hear, smell and taste? Take a moment to stop and ask those questions right now. You can only use your senses in the present so they are a great anchor for mindfulness.
Another thing you can only do in the present is breathing. As soon as you focus on your breathing, you will notice how much calmer you feel. Try breathing in different patterns when you are noticing yourself feeling stressed. Try breathing in for 4, holding for 4, breathing out for 4 then holding for 4. Repeat this pattern a few times to notice how much calmer you feel. If your thoughts wander bring them back to the noticing of your breath.
My understanding of meditation has grown over the 2 years of daily practice I have done. I used to think that it was about quietening the mind. I now know that, without thoughts, meditation doesn’t work. Meditation is the process of bringing the mind back from the thoughts to the present and the breath. If you had no thoughts you could not practice meditation. Daily practice trains your brain to be able to direct your thoughts back to the present and away from ruminating and worrying. I recommend YouTube as a great source of guided tracks. You can listen to mine below (come on its only 6 minutes).
8. Notice your body.
Just like your breath, your body can only exist in the present. If you are feeling your thoughts rushing off to the past and present, out of control try this. Sit in a chair. Notice your bottom and thighs against the seat. Be aware of your feet. Notice and tension in parts of your body. Work from the head to the feet, noticing each body part and asking it to relax. Again, if you notice your thoughts wandering, bring them back to a part of your body.
How to get started
You cannot make all these changes at once as that will increase your stress levels. If you want to develop a mindfulness practice decide today to do one thing from the list and keep doing it. You might decide to spend a few more minutes enjoying your shower or eat a meal every day mindfully. Whatever it is, it will help you feel less stressed.