5 Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness
I have been going to CBT sessions for 5 weeks now and one of the most useful things I have got out of it so far is learning how to practice mindfulness effectively. I, like many other people had tried different mindfulness techniques before and struggled. I was under the impression that I should have an empty brain; no thoughts, feelings or emotions and that I should just be in the here and now. I was partially right, mindfulness is about learning how to ‘just be’. It means accepting any thoughts or feelings that come into your head while your in your mindful mode but then gently letting them pass you by and simply concentrating on on the time and place you are in at that second. With such busy lives, we end up on autopilot most of the time so whether you suffer from anxiety or not learning to be more mindful can really help to calm things down. I have been using mindfulness for about 4 weeks now and it really has helped my anxiety but some of times I do it may come as a bit of a surprise to you. Here are 5 ways that I practise mindfulness in my every day life.
The last time you went for a walk what did you see? I bet you’re rolling your eyes already but stick with me. For example if we are walking to the shops we are often thinking about what it is we need to buy, what we need to do when we get home or how much time there is before the next school run. An easy way to bring mindfulness into every day life is using the time whilst you are walking to the shop to be in the present. Try not to think about the rest of the day or how the day has gone for. Make an effort to look at what is around you; the trees, the colour of a car, the flowers in someones garden. I bet you will notice things you have never noticed before even though you have probably walked the same route so many times before.
Focusing on one thing
My CBT therapist asked me if I played with my kids. Well of course I play with my kids but she meant do I really play with them? Do I get fully immersed in fighting those baddies when I’m Super Mum or do I really commit to the role of Mummy Pig? When I thought about it I realised a lot of the time I probably didn’t. Yet again I was thinking, worrying or planning. My mind would wander whilst I played with them and that made me a bit sad to be honest. When your kids want you to play all day every day it’s not practical to always be mindful while you do it but try picking a time of day where you fully concentrate on that game and the kids. Everything else for that half an hour isn’t important; it will help to bring you back to the present.
Using an app
There are lots of great apps or videos out there to help with mindfulness. If you struggle to switch off then using guided mindfulness can really help as you can focus on the voice or the music. I use Calm and Headspace which I have found to be really effective so far.
A body scan is something I am still learning to do but a great way to not only be mindful but to also relax. You simply lie down on your bed quietly and go from head to toe concentrating on every part of your body, relaxing it and acknowledging how it feels. If you pair this with some deep breathing you will find this can be a great tool to use after a particularly stressful day.
Eating a meal
This is a similar technique to a mindful walk. How many evenings a week do you quickly eat your meal without appreciating it. If you feel that you are too busy to fit mindfulness in then do it when you are eating, after all even the busiest people have to eat. Think about how it tastes, how it feels and if you are enjoying it. Use your meal as a focus point.
So there we are, my 5 really easy ways to start practising mindfulness now! I have to admit when my therapist suggested it to me I was really very cynical about the whole thing. I felt like my anxious mind was far too full to be able to force it to focus on something else but with practice it has worked really well. Let me know if you give it a go!