Does this sound familiar? I’m under the gun, there aren’t enough hours in a day, I’m swamped, I’m overwhelmed, I have all these chores to do, I’m just too busy, I am busy, busy, busy. This is how many of us live our lives. Don’t want to live this fast-paced, chaotic life? Ponder this…
The world we live in today promotes distraction, disassociation, and mental fragmentation. When we’re on vacation we’re worrying about the work piling up on our desk. When we’re at work we’re thinking about vacation. We spend so much time in our heads, going over and over the past and having apprehension about the future, that the present goes whizzing by and we have missed it. We can’t get those moments back.
We can, however, practice mindfulness…living in the moment. Living in the moment means not being on autopilot but being aware of what is going on around you right here and right now. It means being present and staying in this moment, not thinking about what has happened in the past and not thinking about what will happen next. We can practice being still and peaceful.
- Stop being self-conscious. Try focusing on what is going on around you and not what’s going on in your mind.
- Appreciate and focus on whatever you are doing at the moment, driving to work, folding laundry, or having a cuppa. Focusing on the moment helps keep you from worrying about the future. Mark Twain said, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
- Accept your thoughts and feelings and be judgment-free in your acceptance. Instead of being upset with yourself because of how you’re feeling, face it head on and know that unpleasant thoughts and feelings are a fact of life, and that’s OKAY. They are what they are and you don’t HAVE to do anything with them.
- See the world with new eyes. When we believe we know about things we stop paying attention to them. In order to notice new things, you have to be present. You can’t zone out, (like when you drive to work and are surprised when you get there). Make noticing new things a habit no matter what you are doing.
Now that we know some of the steps to being mindful, how do we put it into practice? PSYBLOG (https://www.spring.org.uk ) suggests the following, simple, anyone can do them, exercises.
1. The walking meditation
If you do any period of undisturbed walking during the day — at least ten or fifteen minutes — then you can do a little walking mindfulness meditation.
It’ll be easiest if done somewhere with fewer distractions, but try it anywhere and see what happens.
As when cultivating all forms of mindfulness, it’s about focusing the attention.
At first, people often concentrate on the sensation of their feet touching the ground.
Then you could just as easily focus on your breath or move the attention around your body, part by part.
The key, though, is to develop a sort of relaxed attention. When your mind wanders away, bring it back gently, without judging yourself.
2. The eating meditation
Will you be eating any food today?
So you can practice a little mindfulness meditation while you eat.
When you take the first bite of any meal, just take a moment to really pay attention to the taste.
Look at the food carefully, feel the textures in your mouth, smell it and notice how your body reacts to it.
You don’t need to keep this up all the way through the meal but use it every now and then to focus your attention.
3. Mindful mini-break
Checking email has now become, for many, what we do in between other tasks, sometimes as a kind of break.
Instead, drop the email and practice one of the mindfulness exercises.
Turn away from the computer/tablet/smartphone and sit for a moment noticing the sensations in your mind and body.
How do you feel? What can you hear?
Try to be as present in that moment.
If your mind wanders off to tasks that you have to complete or starts working over things that happened yesterday, let these go.
Gently bring your mind’s focus back to the present. Just be wherever you are for a few moments.
Remember: mindfulness is not about trying to make sense of anything, it’s about attention to that moment.
4. Listen mindfully
Any time that’s convenient, try a little mindful listening.
We get used to a lot of the sounds that are around us and quickly tune them out.
If you live in the city, there might be police sirens, train announcements and people sneezing.
In the countryside there could be trees rustling, birds calling or a gate creaking.
What can you hear right now?
Or, put on some music and really listen to it for a short period: try to hear the music without thinking about it.
Try not to let your mind wander to things it reminds you of, to judgments about the music or think about the lyrics too much.
Just allow the music to flow over you and for you to flow into the music.
5. Mindful brushing
Some things we do so often that we almost don’t notice them anymore.
Habits, like brushing your teeth, are usually performed automatically, while the mind skips off to other plans, worries or regrets.
Instead, try to focus on that chore and really experience it. Notice how the brush moves over your teeth and the taste of the toothpaste.
Another routine that can incorporate mindfulness exercises is showering or bathing.
Let your senses feed on the process and bring your mind back when it wanders off to other worries or thoughts.
You can perform any chore mindfully and you might be surprised what you notice.
6. Just one breath
At any time during the day, take a moment to focus on one breath.
Breathe in, then breathe out.
Focus your attention on how this feels, where you notice the air moving, how your chest and abdomen move.
Try it now.
You’re not looking for a revelation from this experience; think of it more like a little mental push-up for your mind.
That’s it, or if you want to extend it to a few more breaths, that’s fine.
7. Candle meditation
Of all the mindfulness exercises, this requires a little preparation: you need a candle and a darkened room.
Sit for a while watching the candle and focusing on the flame (don’t sit too close).
You are not trying to stare it out or ‘think’ about the chemical reaction that is going on.
In fact, you are not ‘trying’ to do anything: it’s more that you are just noticing the candle in a simple, pure way.
8. Experience nature
If your walking mindfulness exercises should happen to take you to a park or green space of some kind, then this is the perfect opportunity for a little more mindfulness meditation.
As you stand, sit or walk, try to become more aware of nature around you.
See the different types of leaves; hear the bird calls, the wind and the distant rumble of traffic; sense the air moving over your skin and sun heating your face.
Again, after a few moments, your mind may try to wander where it will.
Be kind to yourself: gently nudge your attention back to nature and your surroundings.
Many people do this naturally when they are in nature but do not necessarily label it as one of the mindfulness exercises.
It’s doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as your attention is focused on the present moment.
Hopefully, these will give you some ideas about how to practice mindfulness exercises during your day.
As mindfulness expert, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, says:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Don’t feel limited by these mindfulness exercises. Feel free to mix and match or fit them into your life any way you can.
Almost any activity can incorporate some mindfulness exercises.
Individually these steps may seem small, but you might be surprised at the effect they can have.