At points in your life you are likely to experience difficult circumstances or negative emotions, which may make you feel disconnected to the world. You may find it hard to stop worrying about what might happen in the future or reminiscing about past events. Life throws up difficult challenges for all, whether it be illness, bereavement, life changes or stress from school, work or relationship difficulties. From personal experience, I’ve found through practising mindfulness daily it enables me to feel more accepting of my present situation and helps me enjoy the simple things in life, making the most of everyday.
The definition of mindfulness is the ability to focus all your attention on the present moment without judgement. In any given moment, you have many choices about what your mind will focus on. You might choose to focus on the sounds that surround you, the feeling of your body on the chair, or the different tastes and flavours in the food you’re eating. However, we’re often so busy caught up in our thoughts we forget to be present and pay attention to these things.
By practising mindfulness, it will help you stay in the present moment, while looking at things in an accepting and non-judgemental way. This means, for example, you’re sat in the garden mindfully listening to the birds around you, when suddenly your builder next door starts banging away. Your attention is immediately interrupted, and you might start to have feelings of agitation or anger arise. Now, you could either let these feelings of anger and agitation rise further, until you find yourself wanting to storm off back inside. Or, by being mindful you accept the noise for what it is and the fact it makes you feel agitated and angry, but then you choose not to dwell on it and bring your attention back to the environment around you and carry on being mindful in the present moment.
How will practising mindfulness help me?
- It will help you feel more calm, relaxed and peaceful.
- You’ll start to feel more connected with nature and the world around you.
- Your feelings of depression, anxiety and stress will reduce.
- You’ll get more enjoyment from everyday activities such as eating and walking.
- Your relationships will become stronger and more meaningful.
Mindfulness is such a vast topic that just the concept of it might feel quite overwhelming and daunting. You might feel lost and confused about where to start, so to help you we’re going to take it one step at a time and start by introducing some simple ways to help you incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life. You won’t have to do anything different with your day, as we’ll be taking some of the things you already do now and see how you can start to do them mindfully.
Mindfulness takes a lot of practise so don’t expect to get it straight away. Just focus for now on learning the very basics, and try to practise these tips for a few minutes each day to start with, then gradually build up the duration and frequency. The more you practise, the easier you’ll find it and the less your mind will wonder off. You’ll need to start with the basics for at least a week, more realistically a month, or even several months, depending on how much effort you put into the practise, and keep coming back to this post if you need to remind yourself of anything.
Here are the practises to help you incorporate mindfulness into your daily life:
- Mindfulness of sounds – We’re often so busy caught up in our own thoughts that we miss all the sounds going on around us each day. A good way to practise this is first thing in the morning; either take a few minutes to sit outside or just open your windows while you’re still in bed. Now take a moment to listen to the sounds that surround you. Try not to focus on just one sound but keep your ears open to all the different sounds around you. Can you hear birds singing, people chatting, cars on the road, children playing, aeroplanes overhead? Notice their qualities, such as pitch, volume or duration. The quieter your mind, the louder the noises will become. Practising this each morning, even for a couple of minutes, is a great way to start your day as it makes you feel more positive and calm.
- Mindful Watching – When we’re waiting at a bus stop, on our lunch break, or even sitting in the garden, we often turn to our phones as a form of entertainment instead of using the time to notice the things that are going on around us. In these scenarios, start to practise paying attention to what’s going on around you – maybe there are insects buzzing around, maybe some dogs are rolling around on the grass or maybe someone is gesturing expressively while talking on the phone. Just focus on these things, taking your time to note all the small details while watching with friendly curiosity. Now think, how do you feel right now? Maybe more calm, more peaceful, more connected with nature? Smile at all the wonderful things around you and remember this feeling – this is what being mindful feels like.
- Mindful Breathing – Focusing on your breath is a very easy way to bring yourself into the present moment. Taking a moment right now, put your hand on your stomach, take some deep breaths, and concentrate your mind on that rise and fall sensation. Note whether your breath is long or short, deep or shallow, but do not judge or change it in anyway, just observe the breath. Keep doing this for five breaths, retaining your focus. Now again make a mental note, how do you feel right now? Do you feel more mindful, more at ease, more relaxed? Allow your body and mind a minute to experience this pleasant feeling. By doing a few minutes of mindful breathing each day it will help decrease those feeling of stress and anxiety and help you feel more relaxed.
- Mindful Listening – When we’re listening to another person, we’re often so busy thinking ourselves about what we’re going to say next, that we find ourselves not fully present and not focused on what the other person is saying to us. Next time you’re having a conversation with someone, try and practise mindfully listening to what they’re saying, focusing all your attention on the other person. You’ll be amazed at how the person responds to this, as they will truly appreciate you deeply listening to them. You’ll then find that they’ll return the same act and listen to you more mindfully when you speak, making your relationship to the other person stronger and more meaningful.
- Mindful Eating – Eating mindfully is very simple, all it means is that when you’re eating you pay all your attention to the food in front of you and stay fully present. Notice the different flavours and textures as this will allow you to enjoy your food more. Take your time, and you will appreciate your food further with each mouthful. Practising mindful eating requires a lot of concentration and time, so to start off try practising this with one meal a week.
- Mindful Walking – Being mindful when you’re walking is such a simple but effective way to help you be in the present moment. You can walk wherever and whenever you would like to practise this, just choose a time when you don’t have any time pressure. Start by slowing down your pace, this will allow you to feel the different sensations in your body. Notice how your weight shifts from one foot to the other, and observe how the floor feels under your feet. Extend your mindfulness to include your legs and body in the walking motion and note how they feel. Once you’ve done that for a while, start to incorporate the different sounds and sights you see as you walk, not analysing or judging them, just observing everything in its different shapes, sizes and colours. By paying attention, you’ll be surprised at how much there is to feel, see and hear on your walk. This will help to empty your mind of all those negative thoughts.
- Mindful Body Scan – Right now while you are reading this, think about the points of contact your body has on the floor, in bed, or on the chair beneath you. Start with your attention focused on your feet. How do they feel? Do they feel heavy? Relaxed? Maybe a little tense? Note how they feel against the floor, or on the mattress, and then carry on up the body towards your legs with the same process, and continue this until you reach your head. You are not judging whether they feel tense or sore, just accepting how they feel and then moving on. Now take a few deep breaths and with each breath as you breathe out, allow your body to relax and sink further into the points of contact beneath you. Start to let any tension melt away, and just focus your attention on the body sinking further and further into the surface, observing how heavy your body feels. Try and practise this for a minute or so, maybe with your eyes closed if this helps. Now again make a mental note of how you feel right now – remember this pleasant feeling carefully so next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, practise this mindful body scan.
Remember to just focus on these simple tips for now, as there will be more posts on mindfulness in the future and we’ll cover more topics then. To stay connected with this blog and receive emails about future posts, subscribe to the blog now by entering your email address in the box below the post. I would love to hear your experience and what wonderful things you discovered while practising these mindfulness tips, so let me know by leaving a comment below!
Metta, E xx