Whether you’ve heard it mentioned in a yoga class or read about it on a blog, ‘mindfulness’ has become a bit of a buzzword. But despite its current popularity, mindfulness is actually an ancient Theravada Buddhism concept. Over the past few years, it’s enjoyed a zealous revival and is now adopted by everyone from uni students and yoga teachers to yummy mummies and business executives.
So, what exactly is mindfulness? There are entire books and blogs dedicated to explaining the concept, but in brief, it describes the simple art of being aware of your thoughts, sensations and emotions, without getting caught up in them. It’s a state of mind, free from judgment, doubt, distraction and aversion. You can be mindful as you live out your day to day routine or take a more formal approach and actively pay attention to your body, breath and thoughts.
Sound complicated? It doesn’t have to be. The good news is that mindfulness is a basic human ability that everyone can embrace. And the even better news is that you don’t have to spend hours meditating in a lotus position to reap the benefits. Because let’s face it, most of that time will be spent wondering what to cook for dinner, or how you’re going to entertain the grandkids on the weekend.
To help you begin your journey to mindfulness, we’ve put together a handful of easy tips and ideas that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
Set daily mindfulness alarms
Practice makes perfect, which means one of the best ways to master mindfulness is to constantly remind yourself to be present. Use your phone to set hourly alarms that remind you to stop what you’re doing and spend a few moments simply observing your thoughts. You don’t have to analyse, judge or attempt to change them, just recognise that they’re there.
Honour negative thoughts
Rather than try to quash negative thoughts and emotions, allow yourself to acknowledge how you’re feeling. Honour your emotions as they fill your mind, accept their presence, and then let them pass. For example, if a driver cuts you off it’s OK to feel frustrated. But rather than slam down the horn or let it ruin your day, simply make a conscious effort to acknowledge your anger. Let the feeling of frustration wash over you, and then move on.
Sometimes, all it takes to ground yourself in the present is a little breathwork. Whether you’re cooking dinner in the kitchen, working at the office or watching the grandkids in the playground, spend a minute or two consciously observing your breath. It sounds simple but it can be incredibly calming and will help to clear your thoughts and anchor you in the present moment.
Be kind to your mind
In the same way that you should honour your negative thoughts, you shouldn’t judge yourself when your mind wanders to places you don’t want it to go. Instead of feeling guilty when negative thoughts cloud your mind, choose to acknowledge them and move on. Next time you find yourself in a negative mindset practice recognising where your thoughts have drifted, and gently bring them back to the present.
Life’s busy, and it’s all too easy to multi-task. But sometimes, it’s best to take a step back and simply engage in one activity at a time. Eating is a great example, as wolfing down meals in front of the TV or computer is a daily vice for so many people. Instead, try savouring every bite and focussing your mind exclusively on the act of eating. Your meals will taste better, you’ll be satisfied with smaller portions and you’ll enjoy a sense of empowerment.
Turn off autopilot
Whether it’s vacuuming the house, brushing your teeth or driving to work, your mind slips into autopilot multiple times a day. A great way to practice mindfulness is to pay complete attention to a task you usually perform by default. Channel all your attention into what you’re doing, and pay attention to even the smallest details. It could be how your hand feels on the steering wheel, or the sound your toothpaste makes as it fizzles. It might seem pointless at first, but practising this kind of mindfulness can be amazingly insightful.
Do you believe in mindfulness? Maybe it’s changed the way you live your life? We’d love to hear about your experiences, whether you’re a mindfulness guru or just getting started.