A big thank you to Gill Thackray for her guest blog on becoming more mindful in five easy steps.
Mindfulness in minutes
Everybody is talking about it, but it isn’t new. Mindfulness and mindfulness based cognitive therapy have been effectively used to treat anxiety, stress and depression for a number of years.
Google famously use it in their ‘Search Inside Yourself’ programme, Deloitte, Barclays, Harvard Business School and UK Sport have been practicing it of late, even Transport for London are jumping on the mindfulness train. So what is it?
More than positive thinking or simple breathing exercises, mindfulness is an effective way to train your brain – it’s all about being in the present moment, consciously aware, paying attention without judging, and it’s a great way to promote happiness and mentally de-clutter.
5 easy steps to being more mindful
With regular practice, mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you improve your overall wellbeing. Here are just 5 simple ways you can become more mindful in under 5 minutes a day.
1. The Traffic Light
This one is simple and takes just one minute. Think of what you do at a traffic light; STOP! You can do this sitting in your car every time you really are stopped by a red light, sitting at your desk or just sitting in your chair.
Stop: Stop what you are doing. Pause for a moment.
Take a breath: Breathe, it’s easy, we do it all of the time, we just don’t think about it. Really notice how the breath feels entering your body and how it feels as you exhale. Concentrate only on your breath.
Observe: Now you’ve had that pause and breathed a little, how do you feel? What’s going on for you? Just notice, observe it without judging.
Proceed: Time to continue on your journey.
2. One minute Breath
Another technique that only takes a minute.
Set your stop watch or sit in front of a clock and just breathe for one minute. Your aim is to focus on your breath for one whole minute. Notice how the breath feels as it enters the nostrils, how it feels cool as you inhale, how it’s a little warmer as you exhale. That’s all you’re doing concentrating on your breath for an entire minute.
3. Mindful eating
This is a mindfulness favourite and you can do it with chocolate, raisins, dinner, breakfast, anything you like as long as it’s edible. Get rid of distractions like the TV, newspaper, mobile phone, radio or talking and sit down to eat.
Give your full attention to your food; how does it smell, what colour is it? What are the textures like? How do you cut it? Chew slowly and really savour your meal. Notice how it tastes different? This is also a great technique if you are watching your weight, helping you to feel fuller for longer rather than wondering where that bar of chocolate went….
4. A mindful cup of tea
It’s a simple procedure, but there’s a reason it’s a ritual in the Far East. Making (and of course drinking) tea can be a profoundly relaxing experience. Notice the weight of the kettle as you fill it with water, listen to the sound of the water as it runs from the tap, how the light bounces off the endless stream. Notice the sounds of the water in the kettle as it comes to the boil. Stay in the present as you prepare your cup and the tea bag. Watch as you pour the boiling water onto the bag, how it floats as the steam swirls upwards. Then sit down and reward yourself as you notice the heat, the taste of the tea and all of the different flavours as you swallow.
5. Mindful walking
The next time you’re walking, really notice what’s going on around you, the light, the sky, the trees. Feel the ground under your feet, how you breathe as you walk, notice the buildings, your fellow pedestrians. Remain in the present as you head towards your destination. Feel the wind on your face and notice what’s different when you arrive at your destination.
The great thing about mindfulness is that you can use it any place, anytime, anywhere. Practised on a regular basis, mindfulness can improve both your mental and your physical health and offers a great return on investment for a few just a few minutes of your time each day.