Posted: by Natasha Tuesday, 10 October 2017 @ 15:58
In recent years, mindfulness has been garnering a lot of attention as an important process that reduces stress, and makes us all happier and more productive. In increasingly uncertain times, mindfulness can help us calm down and feel more aware; to understand both the world and ourselves better.
Although altering your outlook can feel like a daunting process, there are easy steps to help us incorporate mindfulness into our every day lives…
Think of meditation like any other exercise
Meditation is one of the most useful exercise to heighten our awareness and boost mindful thinking. A common trap you can fall into when practising meditation is to think that you can fail at it. Remember that it is impossible to fail at meditation, and that anyone can become skilled at meditating. If you become distracted when meditating, simply acknowledge the distraction, and return to meditating. Think of every distraction, and return to meditation, as a “rep”, as you would with any other exercise. Although training your mind to be present can be challenging, it is like any other exercise in that perseverance and practise are certain to bring improvement!
Pay attention to your breathing
Practise five plus five breathing, in which you tune into your breathing for five breaths. With each breath, pay attention to different parts of your body and how they feel. You’ll be amazed at how connected you feel, body and mind, this simple exercise makes you feel.
Have a mental anchor
When we get distracted, either by outside circumstances, or our own emotions, it can be difficult to return to feeling mindful. Having a mental anchor, such as a piece of jewellery, can be a useful reminder to remain present and aware.
Think of your emotions as passing states that do not define you
Sometimes, particularly during periods of stress, we can let our emotions get the better of us. Mindfulness teaches us that thinking of our emotions in an existential way (e.g. “I am angry”) can only make things worse, since it allows our emotions to dominate us. Instead, it is better to think of your emotions as transient symptoms that you can experience (e.g. “I am feeling anger in my body”). This might sound strange at first, but it is a useful trick of the mind to stop our emotions becoming all-consuming entities that guide our every action. An easy way to conceptualise this is to think of emotions in the same way you think of the weather (e.g. “It might be raining now but I know this is temporary”).
Treat everyone with kindness - including yourself
We all like to think of ourselves as kind people, but it is easy to fall into the mental trap of being judgmental. Sometimes it can be hard to silence that critical inner voice, but this becomes easier with mindfulness. Be aware during new experiences and meeting new people. Instead of looking for possible flaws, or challenges, treat new situations and sensations with kindness and openness. You’ll notice that people pick up on this and reciprocate.
Turn daily tasks into mindful moments
Mindfulness isn’t restricted to meditation and new experiences; even daily repetitive tasks can be opportunities to feel present and connect with your surroundings. In the era of multiple screens (smartphone, laptop, tv), there is always the temptation to be distracted, or multitask. Instead of zoning out the next time you need to wash the dishes, pay attention to what you’re doing and remember why it is a useful and helpful thing to do. Bringing a different attitude to everyday tasks like tidying or cleaning can influence how you approach your entire day, and lead to an more positive outlook in general.
If you want to learn more about mindful techniques and how they can transform your life, we recommend the following books:
Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
10% Happier by Dan Harris