Do you feel the fast-paced busyness of the world is distracting you from enjoying the present?
Maybe these scenarios seem familiar:
– Conversations with loved ones where you’re there in body, but your mind is working through a never-ending to-do list.
– Inhaling your salade niçoise at lunch but forgetting what it tasted like – did I just eat anchovies?
– Or worryingly, driving home at the end of your shift and realising you forgot to turn off the power supply / lock the security gate / wear your safety harness all day while working on the fifth floor.
Inability to remain present can increase feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm, and potentially increase your risk of physical harm due to poor concentration.
Benefits of mindfulness
Being mindful simply refers to having a psychological state of awareness; awareness of one’s experience in each moment and accepting it without judgement. Mindfulness activities help train your attention and awareness to gain better control of your thoughts and emotional responses.
Practiced well, mindfulness can help decrease stress and anxiety, increase appreciation and gratitude for life, improve your connection to the real world and boost concentration, therefore reducing the risk of physical or emotional harm resulting from overwhelmed minds.
5 ways to improve mindfulness
The way we each practice mindfulness is unique to the brain we’re carrying. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach! So, here are 5 ideas to help you be more mindful in 2020.
1. Download an app
From guided meditations, to musical or silent meditations, sleep-time storytelling celebrities and daily affirmations, there’s an app to help you train your brain. Some top-rating mindfulness apps are;
Headspace – meditation and sleep app that teaches you how to breathe, meditate and live mindfully. (iOS, Android)
Calm – guided meditation and sleep app for beginners to advanced meditators. (iOS, Android)
Reflectly – a personal daily journal to help you track and manage negative thoughts, make positivity louder and teach you about the science of wellbeing. (iOS, Android)
Buddhify – meditation sessions organised by themes according to where you are in your day, such as commuting, at work, or feeling stressed. (iOS, Android)
2. Eat mindfully
For a simple and enjoyable way to practice mindfulness, try mindful eating. Buy a *block* of your favourite chocolate, find a quiet space, break off a square or two and work through the five senses.
- Sight: Look at the chocolate, note its colour, its shape and anything else of interest.
- Scent: Smell the chocolate, describe its subtle notes (you may even recall some related memories).
- Touch: Place the chocolate in your mouth but don’t chew or swallow it, keep it on your tongue. How does it feel? Silky and smooth? Can you notice it melting on your tongue; is it coating the roof of your mouth and backs of your teeth?
- Taste: What can you taste? Are there honeycomb chips or is there a raspberry jelly centre? Is it bitter or sweet?
- Sound: What can you hear as you roll around this delicious piece of chocolatey goodness? Have you salivated excessively anticipating the moment of release?
Start small with a treat but try and practice mindful eating with at least one meal every day.
3. Read a book about mindfulness
Like to read? Rather learn more about why before you dive in? You may benefit from reading a book on mindfulness before you commit.
If you’re less inclined to follow a chanting spiritual yogi and need some sciencey things to convince you, there’s a book for you.
If you need step by step instructions to ‘learn’ how to meditate properly, there’s a book for you.
If you’re short for time and need to keep things simple, there is a book for you.
Check out a best sellers’ list for inspiration to kick start your new mindfulness habit.
4. Dedicate time to practice first thing
You might find more success sticking to your new mindfulness habit if you dedicate time and space to practice first thing in the morning. It will help you clear your mind and improve focus, setting you up for a more positive and productive day.
5. Keep it short
No using ‘time’ as an excuse not to practice mindfulness, there’s evidence showing that a few minutes per day, several times per day, is enough to benefit. Some meditation apps offer three-minute timed guided meditations if you’re really struggling, or you could at various points throughout your day run a quick body scan to help maintain balance (e.g. when you leave for work, on your lunch break, on your train home). Twenty minutes seems to be the optimal duration for a single session day.