Mindfulness takes practise and the rewards are truly worth it. Less stress, less anxiety, a happier outlook, a healthier body, a more peaceful, calmer inner life.
Here are a few tips to help you become more mindful:
1. Wake up and smell the coffee. Literally. Notice the sights, smells, sounds of what is happening around you. Notice the sensations in your body and the feelings you are experiencing. Hold a piece of fruit in your hand, smell it, touch the skin, observe what it feels and tastes like when you take a bite. Do this with non-edible things too, increasing your sensory attentiveness. Close your eyes and listen to sounds you might not otherwise hear. Try taking a 'noticing break' a few times a day to build up your practise of awareness.
2. “Slow down, you’re moving too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last…” Simon and Garfunkel had the right idea. I hear you say, “I can’t possibly slow down, I’ve got too much to do!!” What is that cliché: More speed, less haste. You can still do a lot if you must, but slowing down means you make fewer mistakes, you are aware of what you are doing rather than trying to plough through things just to get them done. Slowing down means you have time to appreciate what’s around you rather than blindly going through life missing out on important stuff.
3. Change your mind. Actually, it's more about changing habits and trying something different to break patterns and shift doing things by rote. Take a new route home from work, shop from the opposite end of the supermarket, try a food you've never eaten, wear a colour you've never worn, change your hairstyle. Small changes that encourage you to pay attention in little ways are a big help in consciousness-raising.
4. Take a hike. A short walk will do rather than the Three Peaks. It's all about getting physical and doing something for your body like simple exercises, stretching, yoga, salsa classes, climbing stairs and ignoring the lift, even getting off the bus or underground one stop before your usual one. Meditate. Yes, meditation is doing something physical even if it's done in stillness and it really helps quieten the chatter. Great for breathing as well. It will help with tip number 5.
5. Stop the Wheel, I want to Get Off! The hamster wheel of unhelpful thoughts is one of the key blockages to mindfulness. Regurgitating grievances, angers, frustrations wreak havoc on your emotions, stress levels, immune system and general well-being. The first step is to notice that you’ve hopped back on and the second step is to thank your mind and see if you can focus on something a lot more pleasant. You may have to do steps one and two a lot.
6. Kiss and make up. Forgiveness is a great way to unburden yourself of old resentments and stop your mind from going over and over old hurts, slights, accusations, festering wounds. Even if some of the people are dead or not contactable, you can still forgive them. To top it off, you can also forgive yourself and stop berating yourself for things you didn't do, should have done, ought to have known better about. Alongside this, start editing the nasty things you say to yourself when you screw up or think you've screwed up.
7. Watch cat videos. Seriously folks, laugh more. If it's cat videos that make you smile, stand-up comedians that make your belly laugh, funny movies that make you giggle or joking around with your mates that makes you feel all warm inside, laughter releases endorphins, shakes up your body, evens out your cortisol levels and is one of the greatest stress busters ever invented. So alongside taking noticing breaks, punctuate your day with laughter breaks.
8. Accept. The master tip of them all, acceptance. Noticing, without judging yourself and others, is the first step to acceptance. A calmer mind, a gentler inner and outer critic and being more allowing of yourself and others’ behaviour all add up to accepting what is rather than wishing it was something else.
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