Would you like to ‘Master’ Mindfulness?
Mindfulness has been gaining well-deserved respect in the mental health and wellness space, and it is easy to see why.
First, let’s look at what it REALLY means to be MINDFUL!
According to You Matter, ‘it means being (intentionally) more aware and awake to each moment and being fully engaged in what is happening in one’s surroundings – with acceptance and without judgment.’
Simply put, it means to be PRESENT. Present in our thoughts: present in our feelings: present in our actions. But really importantly it means to be NON-JUDGEMENTAL of our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Research shows that a large majority of us spend our lives ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. Ruminating or worrying too long or too frequently doesn’t only lower our quality of life, but it may in fact put us at risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
We can see then how mindfulness techniques can help us to remain present, rather than in the past or future. We can’t (unfortunately) change the past and, interestingly, up to 85% of what we worry about, doesn’t even happen.
Acknowledge and admire!
We are not ignoring or downplaying what has happened to us in the past. Acknowledge what you’ve been through; admire how far you have come. It is also not to say that we shouldn’t consider our future and goals. We want to be prepared and we don’t want to encourage that we all live like ostriches. But if we live in these states, we are going to find ourselves feeling extremely overwhelmed. They are both states that we cannot control. The only thing we really have power or choice over is the NOW. Yes, it is important to reflect and yes, it is important to plan but it is also important to LIVE! The only way we can truly live worry-free is to focus on what is ACTUALLY happening RIGHT NOW. So, give yourself breaks from the planning and time to free yourself from the past. Rest. Recharge. Renew.
Regardless of how our ruminating or worrying starts, it is easy for it to spiral into a learned response or pattern. The great news is that mindfulness is one of our superpowers that we can use to retrain our brain and reclaim our lives.
Learn to live in the moment!
Let’s look at some ways that we can practice mindfulness…
– Mindfulness can be as simple as being aware of your breathing. Notice your body as you breathe in and out. Where are you breathing from? Your chest or your belly? Belly breathing is best! Watch as your tummy goes out and in with every mindful breath.
– If you are eating a meal, practice mindful eating. REALLY focus on your meal. The taste, textures, temperature. Chew slowly and notice the food going down your throat. If you are with people, really BE with them, no distractions. Notice when you are full and listen. Be grateful for the food on your plate and love the body that you get to nourish.
– If you are walking, be present as your surroundings change. Look at the sky, clouds, buildings, people. Listen to the noises of birds, cars, talking, music. How do you feel? Are you rushing? What are you thinking about? If your heart beating faster? Is your temperature changing?
– Meditation can be a planned time to practice achieving mindfulness. Clear your mind and focus solely on relaxing your body. Is anything feeling tense? Relax it. Start with your head and move down to your toes, relaxing each body part as you go. Pay attention to your thoughts and simply observe as they pass through your mind. Don’t judge them or become involved with them.
– Mindfulness Apps! Technology affords everyone, anywhere the opportunity to help themselves or find the right help: all from the comfort and safety of your home or office. Some of our favourite mindfulness apps include Headspace, Insight Timer, and Calm. Connectable Life is, obviously, our favourite online platform to find a 1:1 coach to help with mindfulness, or anything for that matter.
– Use your senses! Look around you and notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
– Box breathe! This is one of my favourites. You can feel a difference almost immediately. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat until you only thinking about your breathing, and you feel calm and at peace.
– 4-7-8 breathing! A variation to box breathing that you may prefer is to inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.
– Distraction… if you find that you are struggling to get out of ruminating or stressing, try the distract method. Give yourself a task. For example, to count in 2s, find all the green objects in the room, count backwards, say the alphabet, pick up the closest object to you and describe it in detail: whatever works for you!
– Journal! Make the time to spend time with your emotions and really feel your feelings. Remember, this is a time to show up with kindness and non-judgementally. Journalling can help us to make better sense of things and to focus on the now and what’s really happening, rather than continue to ruminate or worry about what was or what may never be. Write about your day, your life, the most mindful experience you had that day, what you are grateful for.
– Practice gratitude. Anxiety can’t stay where gratitude exists. If we look for something to be grateful for, we will feel an automatic shift in our thoughts and mood. Gratitude allows us to focus on what IS and brings a state of awareness and appreciation rather than fear.
– Do a body scan… because our mind and body are so interconnected, when we feel stressed, it normally presents itself physically in our bodies too. You know that tension headache or the butterflies in your tummy when you nervous? Tune into your body and connect with your physical self. Make sure you are lying comfortably and focus on your breath being slow and steady first. Then mentally scan your body by starting with your toes and moving up to your head. If you notice any uncomfortable sensations or tension, focus your attention on them. Breathe as though you are breathing into them. Visualize the stress or tension leaving your body. Move on when you feel ready.
– Have a list of positive affirmations for mindfulness. Remind yourself that you only exist now and what is really within your control. This will help to redirect your thinking and retrain your brain. Some examples may include…
*I choose to live in the moment.
*I only exist right now.
*I can’t change what has already happened.
*I always do my best.
*I choose to replace worry with gratitude.
*My mind is calm and my heart is at peace.
*All is well in this moment.
*I will not be held back by my past.
*I am safe.
*Right now, everything is okay.
*I choose to meet myself with kindness and without judgement.
*I let go of what I can’t control.
*I give myself permission to feel at peace.
*I choose to pay attention to my feelings.
*Today, I am free!
*I will listen to my body.
*My breathe is my superpower!
*I am grateful for now.
*I am here: right here, right now.
*I choose to let go!
*I don’t always have control, but I have choices.
Mindfulness is like a muscle!
Like a muscle, mindfulness requires practice to develop. Above are some examples of mindfulness practices, but there are many more out there. Try them out and find one that works for you. It also requires consistency. Much like going for one run doesn’t make us physically fit, practicing mindfulness (or any form of mental health therapy) once isn’t going to make us mind-fit and mindful. The amazing thing with mindfulness is that it is free and within us; we can do it anywhere and anytime. It is available to us in every moment: we just have to be open to it. With amazing mental and physical benefits, it is certainly worth a try!