By Chrissie Homer
During this time, it is especially important we take some time to think about our own mental well-being. One of the ways we can improve our well-being is through a mindfulness practice.
The Oxford dictionary definition of mindfulness is:
“A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
The main purpose of mindfulness is trying to bring us back to the present moment. Many of us spend a lot of our day worrying about what has already happened or what might happen tomorrow. A mindfulness practice can help us accept the present moment reduce anxieties.
Below are our top ten tips to think about when starting a mindfulness practice.
There is no set time limit for mindfulness, just do what you can!
When we create a new behaviour, we need to prioritise it or it simply won’t happen. It needs to become second nature. Eg. Would you normally go outside without brushing your teeth?! Set yourself a goal of making your practice an important part of your day.
It would be better to practice mindfulness 5 minutes every day than 1 hour a month. Try to find pockets of time to fit in your practice and this will also help make it a positive behaviour in your life.
It’s not about emptying your mind. When people hear the word meditation or mindfulness, they normally think it’s about emptying the mind of all thoughts – but this is near impossible! The mind is built to be fast paced and one thought can always lead to a spiral of other thoughts. Mindfulness is designed to let you still have those thoughts, but the aim is to let them pass through your mind without getting attached to them because you are focused on the present moment.
Focus on your breath
The simplest way to practice mindfulness is to watch your breathing. Listen to the inhale of breath and the exhale. You can think about the chest rising and falling, the coolness of the breath coming in through the nose and the warmth of the breath going out through the nose. Focusing on the breath allows us to stay in the present moment.
There is no ‘set’ practice
People can practice mindfulness in different ways. Some people may practice it through meditation, others may practice it by walking and taking in what they can see. Others even practice through slowing down their household tasks (i.e. Washing the dishes) and trying to remain present during the task.
You can’t be bad at mindfulness
There is a misconception that if you can’t ‘relax’, sit still or your mind wanders, then you are bad at mindfulness. This is not true! As long as you are breathing and trying to remain present then you are excellent at mindfulness.
If you are choosing to meditate, make sure you take the time to set yourself up in a comfortable position. If you are trying to sit still for 5 or 10 minutes you can get easily distracted by being uncomfortable (see tips below for how to set up for meditation).
Be kind to yourself
Let judgements roll by and don’t be too hard on yourself if you get restless or cut your practice short.
Take a moment
Take a moment after to say a big well done for doing something so positive for yourself and those around you.
Example of a Meditation mindfulness practice
Sit on a chair, sofa, on your bed, or on the floor with a pillow for cushioning. Choose a comfortable position you are happy to stay in for 10 minutes. Pillows, cushions or blankets can help. You don’t have to have your legs crossed, legs out straight in from with your back propped up by a pillow can be really comfy and helps create a long spine. Or you can kneel on a blanket and place two cushions under your sit bones.
Decide what kind of meditation you want to try. Some people like to sit in silence and focus on their breathing. In this case set a timer of ideally between 5-20 minutes – but anytime is great! Then you should focus on your breathing until the timer goes off. Others like to have a voice to guide them – there are lots of mediation apps, like Calm, you can use.
You can check out the official Calm website clicking the link here: https://www.calm.com/
Close your eyes and if it helps put some headphones on to block out external noise. Try to ensure you won’t be disturbed. Of course, if you have kids, pets or other things that require attention, that’s part of your life and is absolutely fine. Mediation and mindfulness are about how we react (or don’t react) when things don’t go our way. Try to find somewhere way from the busyness, but if you can’t, embrace it and use it to develop your practice of staying present.
After your practice, take a few moments to take some deep breaths and blink your eyes open. Congratulate yourself for doing something positive for your own wellbeing.