Simple Mindfulness practices to counteract a stressful life
Last week we spoke about stress and our body’s response to it. We worked on recognising the way we’re feeling and noticing when we needed a rest. Today we can take it a step further and speak about mindfulness practices which you can easily introduce to your daily routine.
I’ll start by reminding you of the founding definition of mindfulness by Dr. Jon Kabat J Zinn, one of the central founders of the field of mindfulness. He defined mindfulness as:
“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.”
It’s about really slowing down and truly experiencing the present, accepting it for what it is.
Pause, breathe and re-evaluate your workload
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, or you realise that you’re on a roll and maybe it’s getting a bit too much, take a break. Take a good look at your ‘to do’ list, evaluate and ask yourself ‘What do I really absolutely have to do today and what can I strike off my list, or postpone to the next day?’
Choose carefully; some things can always wait...like making the beds, or an email to that client who simply won’t get the point. Can I avoid going out shopping and simply make do with what I already have in the pantry? Practical little decisions can make a tremendous difference.
Also consider what you can delegate to other people in your life. This week a friend reminded me just how important it is to ‘ASK FOR HELP’. What can you delegate and to whom? Ask nicely, explaining how much their help means to you and should they decline, move onto the next person. Do not be afraid to ask for help...everyone needs it!
This important step will help you carve out some time during your day to incorporate simple mindfulness practices that can truly help you (and ultimately, those around you).
Image by Shahariar Lenin from Pixabay
1: A simple meditation
Meditation is a quick and easy way of calming your mind and reducing the effects of anxiety.
I subscribed to the app ‘Calm’ which is amazing! It has a daily 10 minute meditation practice, as well as recorded meditations, calming music, story telling and more. You can also search free meditations on YouTube. Meditations can last as long as you like, generally starting from as little as 3 minutes! Body Scan meditations are great too, because you can focus on different parts of your body, recognising any tension and releasing it.
I used to think that yoga was boring: ‘How can I just stand in a pose and breathe...I’d probably fall asleep?!’ Yoga isn’t for everyone, that is true with practically everything in life. But my impression of yoga was as far from the truth as can be.
Yoga, when paying attention and doing it properly, involves such detailed engagement of muscles, correct positioning and mindful breathing, that the benefits for both body and mind are truly great. And what’s more, it is such a simple and gentle practice, which can be adapted to everyone’s varying abilities and shape or size.
It was my friend Veronica who first introduced me to yoga and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. 😊
I have built my practice with Adriene, from Yoga with Adriene: https://yogawithadriene.com/
Her videos are all free and I love the way she coaches. I would really recommend her to any one of you who may be considering giving yoga a shot.
3: A stroll
We all know that walking is good for us. But the benefits of walking mindfully are significant.
At times, when I go walking, I walk at a really fast pace and my mind races...that doesn’t always do me good. The best thing I find is to apply mindful strategies whilst taking a stroll.
Basically, it’s all about noticing the things around you in a non-judgmental way and engaging your senses to really make the most of the experience. I’ll walk you through this one:
You can walk at any pace you feel comfortable
Mind your breath, think about your breath, breathe with control, long breaths in through the nose and longer breaths out through the mouth
Notice your surroundings and take in any nature you see around you fully. A walk in nature whenever possible is always best
Listen to the birds singing or any other sounds for that matter, unjudgmentally
Take in any aromas you notice along the way (even the unpleasant ones)...just accept them for what they are
Pay attention to any sensations arising within you and accept them
4: Making time for self-care
If you had to ask me, making time for self-care is the most important step of all. When you are kind to yourself, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to unwind and feel good, making you a happier, calmer and kinder person. Self-care brings out the best version of you and makes it easier to be kinder to others.
Self-care can be something as simple as running a bubbly bath and soaking in it for 15 mins. Massaging your feet with essential oils. A yoga session or workout. Even carving out time to read can be considered as self-care. Basically, making time for yourself to do something calming that you enjoy.
Getting enough restful sleep
Making time for self-care also includes one very basic but incredibly important factor: getting enough sleep. People need varying amounts of sleep but the norm for most people is between 7 and 9 hours. I personally need 8 hours of sleep everyday, and whenever this is deprived (which happens quite often), it effects the way I feel and act during the day. Establish a fixed bedtime and adopt a bedtime routine and do try as much as possible to stick to it.
5: Keeping a journal
Keeping a diary / journal is also a wonderful thing. You can write about anything you like, your feelings or factual things such as what you did on that day, acting as a memory book. Otherwise, you could keep more specific journals; here are my favourites:
Planner journal: this is particularly useful before bed. If your mind is boggling with things you need to get done, then writing them down as a list works wonders. You are taking your thoughts out of your mind and onto that piece of paper, giving your mind the freedom to rest.
Gratitude Journal: noting something you are grateful for everyday. It could be just one thing, but I personally like to jot down three. It makes me realise the good things I have in my life and gives me a sense of security, satisfaction and gratitude.
Joy Journal: noting a moment during that day when you felt joy. This is very helpful when it comes to remembering to practice mindfulness throughout your day; knowing that you are going to write in your joy journal come evening, makes you pause during your daily activities to take a mental note of what’s going on. I had created a social media post about this a few months back.
What exactly does joy mean? Joy is very often an emotion that lives in little moments that are easily overlooked, but which is so important to our overall mental well being. Throughout the day, pause every so often and take the moment in. Notice the details and what you are feeling. Then, at the end of the day, bring out your journal and take the time to remember when you experienced joy. Ask yourself: 'What was it that made me smile today?' Write it all down; take note of the tiniest of details and refer to your sensory experiences to guide you.
Live, laugh, have some fun
This last one is not specifically a mindful technique, but I’ve chosen to end on this note because sometimes we simply forget to have fun! Let go and do something silly, get onto that swing at the playground, laugh when your kid spills the milk for the third time in a row (now there’s a tough one!), or do as my hubby and I did and jump into the sea in Autumn in your underwear when nobody’s around...invigorating! 😊 Make the most of your time here on earth, whilst caring for and respecting the earth and all it’s inhabitants. Much love, until next time, Louisa
Various ‘Psychologies’ magazines and meditation practices