Finding Time To Be Mindful
The concept of mindfulness has been with us for a while now. We hear it mentioned everywhere: on TV, in newspapers and magazines, and on social media. But how many of us really know what ‘mindfulness’ means? And even if we understand the principle, how on earth do we find time to practise it? Here at The Patch, we love to share anything that promotes happiness and enriches our lives. So we thought we’d take a closer look…
What is mindfulness?
In its broadest sense, being mindful means being consciously aware of something. We might be mindful of someone’s feelings, for example, and take care to be sensitive towards them. When applied as a self-care strategy, mindfulness involves focusing our own thoughts and awareness on the present moment instead of replaying past events or worrying about the future. This might sound simple, but as most of us know it’s all too easy to let our thoughts ping off in wild directions, leading to symptoms of overwhelm and anxiety. Stress and worry are inevitable elements of everyday life and there’s no magic wand to banish negative feelings completely. But the theory is that we can manage those feelings more effectively if we make a conscious effort each day to be mindful.
How can mindfulness help me?
Switching off and allowing the mind to relax into the present can bring all sorts of benefits. As mental chatter quietens, so our breathing slows. Clenched muscles relax and our heart rate lowers. This can improve our mood and help combat the symptoms of anxiety and depression. There is even evidence to show that mindfulness practice has the knock-on benefits of improved sleep, cardiovascular health and cognitive ability.
Is mindfulness the same as meditation?
Yes, it’s a form of meditation but don’t worry – there’s no need for orange robes or chanting! And far from ‘emptying’ your mind – a technique that many of us find impossible – the idea is to focus on the small things happening in the here and now. You might notice anything from your breathing, to the sound of birds singing, to the feel of a warm breeze against your cheek. If brooding thoughts creep in, register them without being judgemental, and return to thinking about your next breath, or the next step you are taking on a walk.
Help, I’m too busy to be mindful!
The frantic pace of modern-day life can make mindfulness seem like an impossible extra we simply cannot factor into the day. But the good news is that we can be mindful in all kinds of situations: on the daily commute, in the shower or bath, or even while preparing a meal. Here are four simple tips to get you started:
- As you are walking, notice the movement involved as you place one foot in front of the other. Focus on the feel of each step as you put down the heel and lift off from the ball of the foot.
- In the bath or shower, pay attention to your breathing. Take three long, slow breaths in and out. Feel the breath as it moves down into your lungs. The deeper the breath, the more your chest and abdomen should expand. (It’s strange how the phrase ‘breathe in’ suggests making yourself thinner, when in fact it should be the opposite!)
- In the kitchen, ignore your phone and to-do list and focus on the rituals of preparing food. You might be chopping vegetables for an evening meal, baking a cake, making a picnic or even stirring porridge for breakfast. Let your mind slow as you carry out each action, noticing the textures and smells and taking time to dwell on the task at hand rather than race ahead to the next job.
- When you sit down to watch TV, don’t switch on the set immediately. Sit comfortably with your feet on the ground and close your eyes. Feel tension melting away as you focus one by one on each part of your body from your toes to the crown of your head. Breathe slowly and deeply, imagining the breath reaching the different parts of your body. Now open your eyes and enjoy an evening of chilled-out viewing!