What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness explained in it’s most basic form is the practice of keeping your mind on the present. Being accepting of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and thinking neither of the future, or the past.
A very famous Buddhist monk called Thich Nhat Hanh, who was a pioneer for mindfulness teachings in the Western world, explained mindfulness in the most amazing way. He said that
“whilst washing dishes, one should only be washing the dishes”
But what does that even mean!
What he was trying to say, was that if we rush washing the dishes, in order to get to the next job, or to get that cup of tea, or to sit down, then we are actually just rushing through life from one job to the next and actually not really living at all.
He explains that it can be possible, to be mindful in all activities and that includes washing the dishes. And by doing so, it will give you more clarity, stillness and in turn better health.
But how do we even start to accomplish this in our super busy lives?
1. Become more conscious of what you are doing
When going for a walk, or in fact washing the dishes, try to remind yourself of what you are doing in THAT present moment. Feel the footsteps you take, listen to your breathing, notice the sun, the smells and the noises. The colours and the joy of being alive and being able to do whatever it is you are doing – whether that is going for a walk, or cleaning the bathroom or having a cup of tea. Remind yourself of the activity you are undertaking at that precise moment in time. If your mind starts to wonder, just accept the thoughts that come and imagine them leaving, then bring yourself back to the present again.
When you start to actively do this day to day, it will become more ‘normal’ and you will find your thoughts become less busy. This is a true art and not something that happens overnight but it’s the key to mindfulness 24/7
Breathing is a great tool to help calm the mind when you are feeling overwhelmed with thoughts and bring you back to the present moment again.
When you need to take a moment to breathe then take a breath and notice how your stomach expands, as your lungs fill, your diaphragm pushes on your stomach making it rise, and then as you breathe out, notice how your stomach retracts.
Now do this 3 or 4 times, calmly, and counting on your ‘in’ breath how many counts you take before you breathe out again. Equal the counts for the breath out.
Don’t do this too many times, you may only need to do it 3/4 times before returning to your usual normal quiet breath and perhaps say something to yourself like ‘my heart and mind are still’ and then carry on with your activities.
Some people make the mistake of taking lots and lots of deep lung breathes, rather than through the diaphragm which can actually make you feel quite dizzy. The aim is to calm your breath and calm your mind to bring you back into mindfulness.
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress levels when carried out every day so is something that we can ALL benefit from.
Just 15/20 mins is something that everyone can fit in before bed, first thing in the morning, or whenever suits you.
So what is the best way to meditate?
You will find that there are lots of tips all over the internet, but we think these are the best ones to really get the most out of your meditation time.
- Find yourself somewhere comfortable and without distractions.
- Try and meditate at the same time every day so it becomes a ‘habit’
- Play some soothing spa music, meditation music, or even just nature sounds, to give you something else to focus on (earphones are good too)
- Start by sitting comfortably, close your eyes and take a deep breath to relax and still you.
- You can then bring your breath back to a calm quiet breath, and slowly start to relax all of your muscles. Starting at the top of your head and work your way down through your face, neck, shoulders, arms, tummy, all the way down to your feet. Really notice your muscles relaxing as you do.
- Concentrate just on your breath in, and out. If you need to say it in your mind to help you focus then just say to yourself, ‘im breathing in……im breathing out…’ or just simply ‘in…out…’
- Don’t try and fight the thoughts that come while meditating. If they come, acknowledge the thought, then let it go and try and come back to your breath. If the thought wont leave, then just acknowledge that it’s there and just keep concentrating on your breath.
- After 10 minutes or so you should start to feel quite relaxed.
- You may want to set a timer on your phone before you start meditating or you may want to open your eyes when you are ready to come back.
- As you do, just slowly wiggle your hands and feet to bring you back into the room and take your time before getting up.
It really is that simple. Some days may be easier than others and it’s a skill in itself to learn so don’t beat yourself up if some days you find it harder to relax than others.
The important thing is that you at least TRY and become more mindful day in day out to REALLY get the full benefit and it will start to become a habit.
Following the three principles outlined above will REALLY give you a good foundation to becoming more mindful every day.