Written by Tyger-Lee Baise, Therapeutic Practitioner & Counsellor
The world has seen an insurgence of talk concerning mindfulness lately. Eastern health retreats, floatation tanks and yoga centres are all the craze, but what does mindfulness actually entail and can we practice it without breaking the bank?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness allows you to live in the moment and awaken yourself to the experience of life and has been proven to alleviate stress, depression and all things that hold us down. Yoga practices and holiday retreats can help us to hone in on the techniques involved to stay present and aware but there are a number of ways we can practice mindfulness on our own.
Here is a list of five mindfulness techniques to work into your day to keep you at your best.
1. Waking Up
Brushing your teeth can seem like a mundane task but bringing mindfulness into your ritual can set the tone for the rest of your day. Simply bring your full awareness to the art of brushing your teeth, from uncapping the toothpaste lid to spreading the gel across the bristles. Focus your attention on the minty smell, then feel the bristles as they sweep across your front teeth, the sounds that arise as your toothbrush moves around your mouth. Recognise how refreshed you feel as you rinse. You’re ready to face the day.
2. Commuting to Work or Waiting in Line
Whether we drive, bus, train or walk to work, this is usually a time when we let our thoughts rule the nest. You might feel squashed, bored, frustrated with the traffic and the person next to you grunting and find yourself wishing you could magically transport yourself somewhere else. Bringing mindfulness inward can dramatically de-stress you and might even allow you to enjoy just being present where you are despite all the discomforts. Bring your awareness to your breath, feeling the rise and fall of your chest, and allow for everything else around you to just be. When you’re feeling calm you can bring your awareness to the environment without judgement, taking in the sounds, the smells, how the seat feels beneath you, what the sky looks like today, the smells that are carried through the air. Accepting where you are and finding peace within yourself is key to feeling calm and peaceful no matter where you are.
3. Mindful Eating
We all love to enjoy a meal in front of the tv or scoff down our lunch while on our laptops but switching off to nourish our body can be just what you need to keep those energy levels high and keep you focused. Try sitting down at a table and eating your meal without engaging in any other activities – no newspaper, book, TV, radio, music, or talking. Eat your meal paying full attention to which piece of food you select to eat, how it looks, how it smells, how you cut the food, the muscles you use to raise it to your mouth, the texture and taste of the food as you chew it slowly. You’ll be amazed at how different food tastes when eaten in this way and how filling a meal can be. Eating mindfully has been linked to better digestion, another way of keeping you feeling healthy and alive.
4. Don’t Multi-Task
There is a myth that multitasking make us more productive; in reality, it drains us faster. Trying to spread our attention so thin and keep up with so many tasks at a time makes us more prone to mistakes. Changing your focus to doing just one thing at a time can revolutionise how you work and play. Take one task at a time, each task with full awareness. When mindfully doing a task you pay attention to detail, your focus is on what needs to be accomplished in that moment. You’ll find you can be more efficient with the task, and finish it without feeling worn out or tense. When your ‘doing’ simply be there fully and immerse yourself in it. Try to find appreciation in the skills you are using, whether is using your hands and fingers to type or build or fold, or using your incredible brain to recall knowledge and put it out into the world. Practicing mindfulness in this way will allow you to enjoy the task at hand and feel empowered rather than depleted.
5. Bedtime Body Scan
You’ve gone through an entire day, exerting your energy both mentally and physically. Allowing yourself the time to relax and unwind before you sleep will give you a better night’s sleep and allow you to feel refreshed when you wake up. One way to unwind mindfully is to do a full body scan. Lie down in a comfortable position on your back. Begin by bringing your awareness to your breath, feeling the rise and fall of your chest. Then visualise your breath moving slowly from the tips of your toes, through your legs, abdomen, fingertips, arms, chest, neck, face and finally your head. Imagine that as your breath travels through each part of your body it is allowing that part of the body to relax and let go for the day. At the end, allow your mind to relax gently into sleep, rejuvenating itself for the next day.