Mindfulness is everywhere at the moment and there’s no denying its benefits, from dealing with anxiety and depression to helping stress and addiction, but how does a busy person realistically make this a regular part of life?
This is something close to my heart, I am constantly working on mindfulness; which is challenging when you have three children, a huge ‘to do’ list and a busy mind! I am regularly asked about it at class or through people messaging me for tips.
It’s equally as simple as it is challenging in my opinion. The premise is straight forward, keeping the mind focused upon one thing, but maintaining that is quite another.
First of all let’s clarify what it is. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, Hinduism and yoga and all the places where they cross. It is also argued that it exists in many other religions too albeit in different forms.
There is nothing to say that mindfulness needs to be religious or spiritual in any way and most recently it has re-emerged as a secular rebranded practice to deal with the craziness of western life.
The idea of mindfulness is simple – to keep the mind focused upon the present moment, often using the breath as a tool to do so. However, doing this takes practise and commitment. It is a skill, but once you have it, it’s a tool for life.
First of all, the biggest enemy of mindfulness, in my opinion, are our phones/screens. As soon as we enter the world of a game or fall down a Facebook hole then we are lost to those around us and what surrounds us (I am aware of the irony here as I type staring at my screen and you read this on your device).
Absorption into the screen, for whatever reason, removes us from the present. Our minds are elsewhere and we are disconnected – demonstrated by that ‘foggy’ feeling when you put down your device and blink your way back to the real world.
So, therefore my first suggestion would be…
1.Leave your phone downstairs at night (we all know it disrupts sleep so I won’t go on) and buy an alarm clock!
One step further than that: leave it by the front door as you enter your house. You’ll hear it if it rings or beckons you over in some other way don’t worry!
2. Watch the film Christopher Robin! Seriously, Winnie The Pooh knows a lot about mindfulness. Sitting in a train, Pooh Bear names the things he can see out of the window as they pass by – try it. Perhaps not out loud if you’re alone though. If you’re walking somewhere with your kids get them to do it or maybe count how many of each colour car you see.
3. Choose a simple task to do mindfully- brushing your teeth is a good one. Concentrate on what you’re doing for the whole two minutes and nothing else, not the day ahead or what happened earlier, just brushing.
4. Walk barefoot in nature. On grass, on sand, wherever works for you. Be aware of the ground beneath you and what it feels like on the soles of your feet. Be completely present.
5. No phones at the dinner table! Taste your food, chew each mouthful carefully. Look someone in the eyes if there is a conversation going on.
6. If you’re waiting for someone or something then don’t immediately get your phone out, look around you, take in your surroundings. I’m not sure what we all used to do before phones when we had to wait for something?…smoke?…read the paper? Let’s not smoke. That’s not good either.
All of these skills can be passed on to children, if we are modelling these good habits and talking to them about them then maybe we can raise a more mindful generation.
This short ‘breathing shape’ video is great for both children and adults:
So if you do find yourself with a few minutes at hand, a little stressed or anxiety is creeping up on you then do this:
-Stop whatever you were doing.
-Close your eyes.
-Feel the ground beneath you and its contact with your body.
-Take ten deep, slow breaths in and out of your nose.
-Open your eyes.
Even if you have to wait until you’re on the toilet! And even then if you have toddlers they’ll be shouting through the door! Make a few minutes for yourself.
‘Be here now’ Ram Dass