Mindfulness that buzz word you have heard of, seen articles about and read Instagram post on with no real clue of what it is. This blog should help clear up what ‘mindfulness’ is, outline my journey of living mindfully, give you some simple mindfulness techniques to try along with a list of books.
What is it?
When reading Fearne Cottons Calm; I came across the most enlightening description of mindfulness this was by Zephyr Wildman 'who prefers to use the term 'awake-fullness'. For her, its about being aware and awake to what you are actually doing. Rather than going through the motions, slipping into habitual behaviour or ignoring the obvious, we must wake up to the reality of what is happening'. Mindfulness helps us to wake up to autopilot, ever driven to work and wondered how you got there? Autopilot. Mindfulness is not about losing autopilot its one of humanity's greatest evolutionary asset but more about becoming fully aware of it so you have more control.
My first perception of mindfulness was that it seemed a little complicated and I was sceptical of its benefits and how I could become more aware however with research, reading and practise, by slowly adding mindfulness into my life I have noticed its benefits such as reduction in tension headaches, decrease in anxiety and improved mental and physical stamina to name a few. Other benefits include reduction in depression and irritability, improved memory and reaction time, better and more fulfilling relationships, reduction in chronic stress and hypertension, boosts immune system and can be effective in reducing impact of serious conditions such as addiction and chronic pain.
Surely it must be worth giving it a little try! But be patience and kind to yourself it takes dedication, time and practise. Some days are harder than others; when your brain is planning, thinking, ruminating or simply day dreaming it can seem hard to focus your brain but I have found what helps me is to notice where my mind has wandered too, acknowledge it with a simple 'hello planning' and then refocusing on the mind on the activity. I cannot stress enough that preservation and positive self talk is key.
Techniques to try.
I hope you are all raring to add mindfulness to your life!!! To help I have added some small and not time consuming activities you can carry out mindfully to give you a little taster.
The Chocolate Meditation.
Eating is one thing we rarely do mindfully, its one of those activities that fall into the autopilot category. Dinner in front of the TV, sandwich in the car or a slice of toast whilst catching up on your emails, sound familiar? Meaning we miss the true joy and taste of eating. Try this chocolate meditation to help engage your senses:
Choose some chocolate that you haven't tried before or not eaten recently.
- Open the packet, inhale the aroma. Truly smell it.
- Break of a piece off. Look at, examine every nook and cranny.
- Pop it in your mouth, let it melt, be aware of the tendency to suck. Recognising its different flavours.
- If your mind wanders, acknowledge then escort it back to the present.
- After the chocolate has melted, slowly and consciously swallow it.
- Repeat this with the next piece.
- How do you feel? Is it different from normal? Did the chocolate taste better than the breakneck pace you'd usually eat it at.
The first time this concept was explained to me I was thinking to myself chocolate is chocolate surely it does not matter how it is eaten. But you guessed it, It does matter. Wow, I have never tasted chocolate in this way before and have never been so satisfied by two pieces. If you try anything from this blog, I urge you to do this. It truly opened my eyes to how much I eat on autopilot.
Choose one of the following, each day for the next week see if you can remember to pay attention while you are doing it. Simply do what you normally do but see if you can be fully alive to the activity as you do it.
- Brushing your teeth
- Walking from one room to another
- Drinking- tea, coffee or juice
- Taking out the rubbish
- Loading the washing machine or tumble dryer
For example 'Brushing your teeth'- Where is your mind when you are brushing your teeth? Pay careful attention to all the sensation- the toothbrush on the teeth, the flavour of toothpaste, all movements required to spit and moisture building up in your mouth. These activities are usually done in autopilot whilst thinking of everything but the activity you are doing. Just taking a few moments to be aware each day can have a liberating effect on your mind.
One of my absolute favourite ways to be mindful is walking. Its something I do daily for at least an hour but 15 minutes is more than enough for those of you who don't have much spare time. The aim of mindful walking is to be fully present, to observe, smell, listen, feel, sense, notice, appreciate, admire, experience and enjoy. This can be adapted to other activities such as sitting in your garden, watching your children play or laying on a beach.
When travelling round Thailand, I went with a real intention to be aware and present during the experience. Whilst floating in the sea surrounding Koh Tao I did this awareness activity and now almost a year later when I close my eyes I can take myself right back there, the smell, the feel of the water on my skin, the beautiful landscape and the heat of the sun.
After reading this blog if you wish to understand more about mindfulness and its practises the most helpful and informative books I have read are listed below.
- Calm- Fearne Cotton.
- Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world.
- The little book of mindfulness.
- Let go.
Author Faye Johnson