November 09, 2016
Everyone seems to be talking about mindfulness at the moment don't they. But what is it? And how can you make it a part of your already over-full life?
You know how sometimes you get in the car to drive to work and the next thing you know, you're pulling into the car park with no memory of your journey there? That is the opposite of mindfulness; putting your body on autopilot while your brain was probably busy making lists, replaying a conversation you had yesterday or trying to figure out where you know that person from.
In fact, research suggests that we can spend up to 50 per cent of our time caught up in our thoughts, preoccupied and distracted from the world around us. In very simple terms, mindfulness is being present in the moment - wherever and whenever that is. It's often dressed up with fancy-sounding terms, ideas or methods - but it is essentially just being mindful of where you are and what you're doing.
Don't worry, we know what you're thinking: that's all well and good, but how do I actually do this mindfulness thing? The good news is that you don't need to spend half an hour meditating in order to practise mindfulness; it's so much more (and easier) than that. Here are our top five tips for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life:
1. Be mindful in the shower What do you usually think about in the shower each morning? This morning's meeting at work; whether the kids are up and getting dressed as you asked them to; whether there's enough cereal left for breakfast this morning?
Whatever it is, we're willing to bet that none of that thinking-thinking-thinking is actually productive in any way; you don't get out of the shower with a eureka moment for that meeting or how to get everyone dressed and out of the door on time.
Stop for a moment. Become aware of your surroundings. How does the water feel as it hits your skin? How does the soap smell? Pay attention to exactly how your feet feel as they stand on the floor, how the shampoo feels in your hair.
Doing this just for five minutes in the shower is a great way to centre yourself and get your day off to a positive, mindful start. 2. You don't need to do it 24/7 It's perfectly ok to let your mind wander from time to time; in fact, studies have shown that our brains respond best to mindfulness techniques when we are mindful in short bursts throughout the day. If we were mindful from the time we woke up until the time we went to sleep, noticing and feeling every single thing, we would probably explode from sensory overload very quickly.
Just a few minutes here and there is plenty, and it can be very beneficial to allow your mind to wander at other points during the day. In fact, letting your mind wander once you've been practising mindfulness is a great way to come up with new, creative ideas without getting bogged down in the usual monkey-mind jabbering that can often go on up there. 3. Become a mindful queuer. How often during the course of your day do you find yourself queueing or otherwise waiting for something? Waiting in traffic for the lights to change; waiting for the lift; waiting while you're in the lift; queueing for your morning coffee, your lunch, to pay for your shopping. Instead of thinking of these as 'argh moments", try seeing them as opportunities to practise mindfulness.
You don't need to sit cross legged on the floor in Starbucks and begin chanting Om while you wait for your flat white; just quietly allow yourself to become aware of your body and your surroundings.
How do your clothes feel against your skin? Your feet on the floor? What can you smell? What can you hear? Pay attention to the tiny details of your queueing experience, and it can become a perfect little zen moment in an otherwise hectic day.
Whether that's lighting a scented candle, spraying a calming scent or applying a balm, it can work really well to bring your mind into the present moment. Over time, if you use a scented candle for meditation or relaxation, you will develop scent associations that mean just smelling that scent brings you to a more peaceful place.
When you apply an aromatherapy balm, don't just sniff at it as if it's perfume; really stop for a moment and inhale it deeply. Allow yourself to be truly present in that moment, however brief. 5. Learn to meditate Ok, so we did tell you this was a list of things you could do without spending thirty minutes cross-legged, but you don't need thirty minutes in the lotus position to meditate!
You can learn to meditate in five-minute bursts here and there, just sitting calmly and paying attention to your breath. A great way to get started is to just sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed, and listen to the sounds around you. Pay attention to each individual sound, and try and figure out which is the farthest sound you can make out.
The best way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life is with meditation. If you already meditate daily, then being mindful at other points in your day becomes much easier, like second nature. Otherwise it can be a little like being plonked into a sports car in the middle of a city and being told to drive home, when you've never driven a car before; you need to learn the basics first!
Once we know how to apply it, mindfulness can become an incredible tool that can improve our productivity, our general mood and even our physical health. You don't need to pay a fortune to go on a retreat or consult with a white-clad spiritual guru; you can just get started right now, on your own.
What's the worst that could happen?
You remember your journey to work! But imagine if you were also able to remember the details of the conversation you had with a co-worker on the way into the office, without having to ask her to repeat names and times again. Imagine if you were able to get through a busy morning at home without feeling like you needed to scream. It all begins with a little mindfulness: if you're in the room, be in the room.
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