Mindfulness is all the rage these days. But if just hearing the word makes you think of incense, chanting and wearing robes, read on. The truth is that we can all be mindful – and calmer – without moving to a monastery.
What’s the big deal?
Just so we’re on all the same page, mindfulness is, at its most simple, being aware of the present moment, what’s happening around you and inside you. Sounds easy, but try it and see how long it takes before you’re planning your evening out or making a list of all the things you need to get done tomorrow.
You might think that if mindfulness is such a schlep we should all just ignore it. However, there are plenty of benefits to it, like increased calm, focus, and optimism. With less stress, many people get better sleep, manage to lose weight, and deal better with pain and chronic illnesses. (Mindfulness on its own does not treat or cure any illnesses.)
OK, so how do I do it?
Many people associate mindfulness with meditation, but it’s not the only way to be mindful, so don’t be put off if you’re not interested in meditating. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, which you can achieve through any activity in which you are focused on your body, breath or mind. Golf, prayer, yoga, gardening, singing, walking the dogs, washing the dishes – all of these activities can be mindfulness training if you do them with awareness, focusing only on the present moment.
4 mindful tips
Want to get a little mindful hit during the day. Try these ideas:
- Count your breaths. Every time you inhale, count 1, and when you exhale, count 2, and so on until you get to 10, and then start again. If you find yourself at 26, just go back to 1.
- Engage your senses. Pause for a moment and really notice where you are. Are there any strong smells, what can you hear and see? What do your socks feel like against your toes?
- Squeeze! Contract every muscle you can. Squish your toes and face. Bring your shoulders up to your ears. Hold it for 2 seconds and then let it all go. Do this a few times and you’ll feel more relaxed and become more aware of your body. (This one will earn you funny looks if you do it at the office.)
- Be kind. Practising mindfulness is a continual thing and nobody will ever be perfect at it. The point is to notice when you are distracted and gently bring your mind back to the present moment, without judgement.