Mindfulness is such an important practice, and I wrote previously about a number of reasons why you should practice mindfulness. Essentially, it helps to ground us, it helps with our mental health, and it helps us to enjoy life.
There are many different simple ways you can incorporate it into your daily routine. Below I have listed just five of them.
Begin your day with a mindfulness minute. Set a timer for 60 seconds, and during that 60 seconds just focus on your breathing. Whether you do it sitting up, lying down, with your eyes closed or with them open, it’s entirely down to you. Just ensure you can give it your full focus – no distractions.
Focus everything on your breathing. How do your lungs feel when they inflate? When you exhale? Can you slow your breathing down? If your mind wanders, let go of that thought – slowly, gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
When the timer goes off, don’t rush to get up. If you had your eyes closed, open them. Take in your surroundings. How do you feel? Calmer? Has the stress eased?
For parents, beginning the day this way might seem an impossible feat – after all, our young children come in all full of energy and raring to go. If that is the case, set aside time during the day. Maybe during nap time, or when they have the TV on. Whatever works best for you.
I love a mindfulness walk; I find it really helps to soothe my soul. The best kind of mindfulness walk is when you are out in nature – walking through the woods, along a river, or down at the beach. Choose your own environment.
The idea of a mindfulness walk is to focus on the here and now. Extend your senses – what can you smell? Is the air warm or cold? Can you hear any wildlife? If you can feel the ground beneath your feet, is it smooth or bumpy? Hard or soft? If you can go barefoot for a moment, then even better. If your mind wanders, then let go of that thought and return to the present moment.
Mindfulness walks are great to do with children too – ask them the questions. Find out what they can hear, feel, see, sense. If you don’t have the chance to get out in nature, be mindful on your walk to the shops or on the school run. There are so many opportunities to ground yourself.
We all rush our food don’t we? Especially as parents. We either want to eat it hot before the baby wakes (ha!), or we snack on something whilst packing bags to go out. Even if we get a chance to sit down and eat properly, we tend to get distracted by our children or by planning out the next few hours/days and thinking about just how much housework needs doing.
Stop. Sit down with your food, and really enjoy it. Focus on the flavours and the textures – which bit do you like the most? Do you know why? Feel your mouth getting dry, and then feel your drink wet it again. It’s not just about flavours and textures though – really look at it. What colours do you have on your plate? How do they react when you move them around or cut them?
Next time you’re washing the dishes or folding laundry, take a moment to really experience it. Feel the bubbles on your hands; run your fingers across the scourer. Smell the leftover coffee at the bottom of the mug, or the scent of your washing liquid. Feel the textures of the clothes as you fold them; feel the weight of them as you pile them up ready to put away.
Again, it’s not something you need to spend loads of time on – even just a minute or two makes a big difference. You might even find you enjoy it, and that it becomes less of a chore.
Ultimately, the idea of mindfulness is to slow down and really experience everything. This can be done in life in general, not just with small tasks. Take the time to enjoy the play with your children, and listen to their stories. Put the music on and dance away. Let them help you to make lunch, rather than saying there’s not enough time. Read that extra bedtime story.
For those in a busy work environment, it can be harder. Rather then stressing about how many tasks you have to do, focus on one at a time. Don’t wish your time away – give your attention to the task in hand. You might find it becomes more manageable, and therefore you become more productive.
The same goes for days and years – don’t wish them away. It is all well and good planning for a future, but what is the point if you can’t enjoy the present? Children grow too fast, and so do we.