Mindfulness – it feels like a bit of a buzz word now. Everyone has heard of it, but most people don’t really know what it means, beyond the conceptual idea that it’s about being in the moment. It originates in Buddhist tradition, the idea being that by becoming more and more mindful, you will reach “enlightenment.” But for most people, mindfulness is a simple tool to help manage stress and generally bring about a sense of wellbeing. And who doesn’t want more of that in their lives?!
It’s so easy to find ourselves overwhelmed these days. Everyone is always busy. Working long hours in stressful jobs, frustrating commutes, challenging relationships. Making sure we eat properly and make time to exercise. Trying to keep up with the Jones’.
We focus on the things we don’t have. The problems. The challenges. The things that have gone wrong. Before you know it, you find yourself spiralling into a fear-based mindset, thinking the worst, worrying about things that have already happened, stressing out over things that may or may not happen in the future. We can end up missing everything good in our lives when that thought pattern kicks in.
This is where mindfulness comes in. It helps you to stop rushing through life, rushing from one place to the next and one problem to the next. It enables you to pay attention to every detail in that moment. It allows you to observe your thoughts, rather than being your thoughts. The more you practice mindfulness, the more likely it is that your wellbeing will improve.
Mindfulness is defined by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre as “moment to moment awareness of one’s experience, without judgement.” But how do you do that in practice?
Here are my top 5 tips to bring mindful moments into your every day and get back to noticing the joy!
1. Mindful showers
When you have a shower first thing in the morning, rather than running over all the things you’ve got to do in your mind, focus on the feeling of the water hitting your skin. The smell of the shower gel. The feeling of the shampoo being massaged into your hair. The way the warmth of the water washes away any aches and pains. Imagine it washing away any negative thoughts and feelings and watch them wash down the drain.
2. Savouring tea
Mid morning, when you stop to take a tea/coffee break it’s time for your next mindful moment. Hear the click of the kettle when you turn it on, the sound of the water beginning to boil. Notice the smell as the water hits the tea bag. Watch the colour change and deepen with each moment. Take your drink and sit down. Hold the mug with both hands and feel the warmth. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Slowly take your first sip. Notice the flavour. Smile!
3. Lunch time walk
Make time to get outside every day if you can. A short (or long!) walk at lunch time can be the perfect way to escape the office and break up your work day, and fresh air and exercise are both great stress relievers too! Mindful walking is simple; stand up straight, let your arms hang wherever is comfortable for you and start walking! Feel your feet hitting the ground and count your steps until the tenth step, then start again. Notice the temperature, the smells and the sounds whilst you’re walking. When your mind wanders (because it will!) just notice that’s what’s happened and go back to focusing on counting your steps. Don’t judge the wandering mind, its human nature and totally normal – promise!
4. Mindful body scanning and relaxation
Take ten minutes out on your own, somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few moments to breathe deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take your awareness to your feet, curling up your toes for a moment and releasing them. Then move up to your calves and tense those muscles for a moment before releasing them. Repeat the tensing and releasing up through your body, one area at a time. By the time you’ve reached your face, your body will be far more relaxed, and you’ll have noticed any place which is feeling uncomfortable and might need a bit more attention. Again, you’ll probably notice lots of thoughts coming into your mind, and that’s ok. Just go back to focusing on each set of muscles and don’t worry about them.
5. Name your thoughts
Throughout the day you have countless numbers of thoughts. During your daily mindfulness activities, you’ll be focussing on something and your mind will wander. When you notice you mind has wandered away from whatever you’re focussing on, name your thoughts. Are they happy thoughts? Anxious thoughts? Future plans e.g. what you have to do later today/tomorrow/next week/month? You’ll start to notice repeating thought patterns and that can help you to become more self aware, and tackle things that might be triggering you. Remember that mindfulness isn’t about stopping your thoughts, its about seeing them as events that happen, and that you don’t have to react to them.
Remember mindfulness is a practice. It takes time, and the more often you bring mindful activities into your day, the easier you will find it to be mindful without even trying.
If you want to go deeper with your mindfulness practices, there are lots of books an online training courses out there, and a quick google search will find you local mindfulness teachers if you’d like some one to one support. There’s also apps such as Headspace which can be great at helping you to take ten minutes out of your day to just pause and notice.
And when you press pause, even just for a few moments each day, every day, it’s like pressing the reset button on your brain – less stress and a greater sense of wellbeing, and an ability to focus on the next task with a greater sense of ease.
Another tool I love to use to help bring me into the moment is my aromatherapy diffuser. Choosing the right oil or blends when I want to bring some extra calm into a busy day can make all the difference. My personal favourite is Neal’s Yard Remedies Esta diffuser (which you can buy here) along with the meditation oil blend.
Mindful moments – the perfect way to pause and notice the joy in your day.
What mindful moments could you bring into your day today?
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