Our world at the moment is constantly changing and this can cause a lot of worry and uncertainty in so many of us. Managing emotions and feelings can become totally overwhelming leaving us unable to relax and switch off.
The practice of mediation and mindfulness has been around for a very long time, but has only recently been used in Western cultures. So I wanted to write about some mindfulness habits that will give you more peace and freedom from worries.
Mindfulness has been recommended by so many professionals because it really can have an huge impact on your life and in a nutshell it is about observation and awareness without judgment.
Here are 5 mindfulness habits that you can start doing from today to really help you switch off and be in the present moment:
1. Focus on your breathing for 10 minutes a day.
Life can so easily feel like it is rushing by, this meditation will help to ground you in the present moment and give you time to refocus.
It is a form of meditation that can be done anywhere as long as you are comfortable and can concentrate.
Before you start, make sure you have an active position so you feel alert with good posture and find somewhere comfy and hopefully quiet. Either stand, lie down or sit on the floor or in a chair and just breathe normally.
For 10 minutes observe the sensations in the body:
- Take note on each in-breath and each out-breath. As you breathe in, feel the breath moving in through the nose, to throat and down into the lungs.
- We don’t want to force the breath or breathing pattern in anyway. Just breathe naturally and notice how the body is feels and responds.
- What sensations are in the nose, throat, lungs. How do you feel the ribcage moving? What about the stomach muscles?
- Take note of all these sensations, don’t try to control anything just observe the feelings.
- As you are focusing on your breath try to not let the mind wander onto other things. If it does that’s ok as it’s bound to happen, just notice that it did wander off and then refocus on your breathing.
This meditation can be hard to do when you first start, I remember feeling that my mind was always wandering: thinking back to conversations I’ve had with anyone and everyone, thinking forward to what I have to do for the rest of the day, week or month.
If you are an over-thinker, you may notice the mind wandering often, but trust me the more you practise the easier it gets to keep your focus on your breath.
With practice we learn to recenter, be in the present moment and begin to reduce how often we get distracted.
As a result, we can start being more efficient with our time. Noticing sooner when the mind wanders and being able to bring our attention back to the present quicker.
Have you ever had so much on your mind that you just can’t switch off and unwind?
Those nights when you lie in bed awake unable slow down the thoughts which just leads to more thoughts and worry.
Practicing this awareness exercise and learning how to bring your attention to a simpler calmer place like the breath can help you leave those worries behind, be present and switch off.
2. Sit outside.
Take some time to sit outside either in your garden or an outdoor space in your local park, by a river or on the beach.
Sit for as long as you want and be present in your surroundings:
- What can you hear? Notice the sounds: traffic, wildlife, people, wind, water?
- Notice the smells in the air: rain, seaweed, heat, flowers, cut grass?
- The temperature of the air around you: is it hot or cold, is there a wind chill, is the sun out?
- What can you feel? Rain on your skin, the heat / sunshine on your face, wind in your hair?
- Lastly, what can you see around you? This could change through the seasons: are trees still green with leaves or is it autumn, is it busy, or peaceful?
I would practice this with your eyes open and closed. With the eyes closed you can really deepen the other senses and notice more of those sensations around you and also within the body. Keeping the eyes open makes you take notice of your surroundings more than maybe you would have before.
Similar to the last exercise, try not to let your mind wander, stay present in the moment. The aim is to not to criticise or judge yourself if it does wander off.
3. Let the negatives go.
Negative thoughts and emotions are so temporary, think of them like clouds in the sky… they come and then they go.
It’s important to realise that your thoughts and emotions are not a direct representation of who you are, and emotions will always pass…
Notice them as they are happening, don’t feel you have to try and change them or fight or bury them. The sooner you can let them float by and disappear as quickly as they arrived… then your quality of time will drastically improve.
Listening to your internal language and watching out for what words you are using is very important for our subconscious. We want to feed the mind with positivity and ‘healthy’ words. Any negative wording will only cause more negativity to resound in the mind. Replacing negative phrases like ‘I am stressed’ with ‘I have been feeling stress, but it will pass’ can massively help.
This shift in awareness can really clear your head and give you a fresh perspective, and gives you an opportunity to not let the emotions you’re feeling engulf and overwhelm you.
4. Create a mindful challenge each week.
This challenge wants to be something that you do everyday that you can give your full attention to.
So regularly we go into autopilot, where we just do our normal daily tasks without really thinking about what and how we are doing them. We can stop noticing things that we may have noticed if we were fully present.
So pick a task that you do everyday but don’t really tend to pay that much attention to, such as: brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, showering, eating, washing up, dog walking or your commute to work… and I’m sure there are many others…
As you are doing your chosen task pay full attention to what you are doing. Be fully immersed in the moment, what sensations are you feeling? What sounds can you hear? What are you seeing and noticing happening?
Also try to keep your mind on the task, avoid switching your attention to thinking or planning. And as always, we never want to judge ourselves if it does.
By taking the mind off autopilot and being fully present in what you are doing, it allows us to refocus and retrain the mind to stay on task. Not only reducing overthinking, worry and procrastination… but it makes us use our time more efficiently and appreciate all the small details.
5. Mindful movement.
In my last post I wrote about how Pilates connects the mind to the body. It is a form of exercise that requires so much awareness that you have little to no time available to think about other things, which makes it a form of mindful movement.
So for the 5th mindfulness habit we’re looking at mindful movement and this can be as simple as walking… as we start, we want to slow it down so we can notice the movement; the roll from heel to toe.
How do the legs move, the ankles and knees? What about the rest of the body, position of the spine, shoulders and head?
This example is a great place to start, but mindful movement can be applied to most exercise, whether its a slow form like Pilates, or more fast-paced.
For me I surf and climb, when you do these activities you are so involved in your surroundings and the physical demands put upon you. You have to be so precise with your movements and body positioning that if you get it wrong, you can fall…
Taking up a physical activity or sport that requires your full attention and leaves little room or time to let the mind travel off-task.
Practicing mindfulness can be challenging to start with but if you take on the suggestions listed above and make them into daily habits, then mindfulness will become easier over time. It can take a lot of practice and ideally needs to be done as often as possible to enable you to truly relax in your environment.
All these opinions are subjective and my own. I am only talking from my personal experience with the hope that this could be of help to another person. I hope anyone who reads this can take away a positive, especially during our current situation in UK and globally… we are all facing and dealing with so much.