Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword recently. But I think there’s a lot of uncertainty around what *mindfulness* actually means. On asking my sister for example, she confidently replies that being mindful is ‘the act of having a full mind’. Not sure about this Alice! Instead, the serviceable definition for me is this: mindfulness is the ability to know what is happening in your head at any given moment, without reacting to it. We don’t need to inhabit our thoughts; instead, in any given moment, there is infinite possibility and time. Indeed, this doesn’t mean that by practicing mindfulness we should become rendered unresponsive to all situations and never act on our instincts. That’s called being human. But by being more aware of our present moment, we can effectively exercise more control over our own lives and make wiser choices. I think this quote from Hamlet sums it up perfectly:
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – Hamlet, Act II
Mindfulness is something that can be practiced by anyone, anywhere and some of the benefits are accessible more or less immediately. It is it a successful way to decrease your stress levels, it will enhance your ability to hold attention, it can help to improve your quality of life and ultimately, mindfulness will make you feel happier in your present moment. Here are 7 easy ways to practice being mindful on a daily basis. Try it – I honestly think this is on the brink of becoming the next big health revolution.
1. Turn Everything Off
FOMO is a thing. There is so much anxiety in our society surrounding social media and online presence. I’m almost thankful that I grew up in the days of MSN and Bebo for I seriously don’t know how kids manage at school these days with so many social channels – and that’s a big part of my job! There’s a lot of value in having a ‘digital detox’ and turning everything off. Take some time out from your phone and give yourself a chance to be more aware of what’s going on around you. You will be surprised at how much you notice.
2. Do Yoga
Yoga and meditation are perhaps the two most effective ways to practice mindfulness. Since doing yoga with the gorgeous Phoebe from Wood and Luxe, my ability to focus on the present moment has improved tenfold. Instead of worrying how tight my hamstrings are when I’m in downward dog or thinking about how much my wrists are shaking in side plank, now I can let these thoughts come and go and instead, focus on my breathing. This is mindfulness – observing what pops in and out of your head without judgement or reaction. I then do my best to take this attitude down on the tube with me during rush hour, which still needs some practice!
“When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
This one’s my favourite. Go places and see things that you’ve never seen before; that make you stop and appreciate natural beauty, culture or history. Travelling somewhere new is an enriching and sensory experience. It can challenge our preconceptions and help us to take a moment to appreciate our surroundings. Often, we lose sight of the ‘little things’ in life and miss what is right in front of us. Travel to engage with the present moment and encourage mindfulness. You’ll learn more about the world and more about yourself too.
4. Eat Mindfully
What you’re eating on a daily basis is important as it will dictate your mood. You eat last nights pizza for breakfast, you’re feeling sluggish for the rest of the day. You choose five grain porridge and you’re feeling like a winner. However, eating mindfully is more about taking time over eating your food. This will help to tune in your senses and heighten your awareness through taste, smell and sight. It will also put a stop the greedy, emotional eaters among us… *guilty*
5. Be Accepting
Being mindful is the acknowledgement of actions, events and thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts, you don’t need to believe them or react to them. Accept the present, let your consciousness flow, don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Even if you don’t like a particular thought that passes into your head, don’t seek escapism or shy away from it; accept it, take responsibility for it, and let it move on.
I am so guilty of not listening wholeheartedly to someone who is speaking to me. I am constantly getting distracted. By focusing with intent on who is talking and bringing awareness to the way that we listen, it becomes so much easier for us to engage, form our own opinions, and effectively learn more from the conversation. Thinking of listening as more of a conscious act can help to encourage mindfulness by staying present.
7. Do more of what makes you happy
It’s a quote we’ve seen so much on Instagram that it’s almost becoming cliche. However, it couldn’t have more meaning. Immersing ourselves in what we love, whether that be cooking, running, travelling, or spending time with the people we love, will ultimately help us to lose our smaller self.
“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.” – Louis L’Amour
If you want to learn more about mindfulness, there’s some great books that can help. ‘The Little Book of Mindfulness’ by Dr Patrizia Collard is a fantastic place to start with ’10 minutes a day’. I also love the Headspace app which is perfect for beginners and takes you through simple, step by step meditation.