Mindfulness has been a part of my life for a while now, in one form or another. I first became aware of it through yoga where you are encouraged to relax into the moment and appreciate where you are rather than worry about where you “should” be.
Although the mass marketing of ancient wisdoms puts me at slight unease it can only be a positive thing if it helps people with busy lives slow down a little and enjoy what they have in front of them.
There are plenty of on line courses, books and classes on mindfulness and meditation but I thought I’d share a few simple ways you can re-focus using your 5 senses.
It’s all to easy to rush through life with our blinkers on, I mean who hasn’t driven to work and then thought…..”how did I get here?”. Our brains are amazing things and can sort masses of data per second, the issue is the more familiar that data the less the mind will dwell on it. Instead of rushing through the mundane walk to school or quick marching the dog in the rain how about using that time to have a look around. Notice the seasons change as the buds appear on the trees or watch the birds gathering twigs for their nest. You don’t have to be in the country to focus your mind on the beauty around you; a window display, market traders setting up, the rain dripping from the shop canopy or the light reflecting off the windows of an office block. You may even be lucky enough to live in a historical city with gorgeous architecture but you’ll have to take your eyes away from your phone to notice. Using what we see around us is a really simple way to declutter the mind and focus on the here and now.
I’m not a fan of whale music (is anyone??!!) but what we listen to and how we hear it can make the difference between a frantic mind and one of peace. No matter where you are reading this there will be sounds all around you, natural or man made. Close you eyes, breath slowly and listen…….. what can you hear? You may get distracted by thoughts of to do lists or deadlines but bring your focus back to the sounds. Let them wash over you, be part of you and breath. With practice even a dripping tap can become a lullaby.
Smells can be powerful things, the whiff of suncream transporting you back to the beach or the scent of lavender reminding you of hugs from nana, smells can often have emotional connections (sometimes good, sometimes bad). Aromatherapy oils can be used in burners or baths with fragrances to uplift or relax you. Find a blend you like and focus on it, breathing it in visualise the colour it may represent, how it feels as the fragrance hits your senses and flows through your body. Put distracting thoughts to one side and slow your breath down to be in the moment.
We can be at our least mindful whilst eating, especially if we are really hungry as our main focus is to fill our tummies. Most people are familiar with the concept of certain foods being of benefit to our physical health e.g. protein helps repair muscles but we are less attuned to consider how what we eat impacts our mental health. Strangely we consider healthy foods as some kind of punishment “you can only have dessert if you eat your greens”! Really it’s the opposite as nourishing your body is the greatest act of self care. Thinking about what we eat and taking the time to savour it is a great way to focus the mind away from life’s distractions. Shopping for the ingredients, preparing the veg and sitting down to enjoy the meal are all acts in which you can quiet the mind and be in the now. I’m not an advocate for the chew 30 times per mouthful fad but I feel it is important to eat mindfully as it will help you focus, digest and know when you are full.
This one can be done anywhere, at your desk, on the train, as your falling asleep at night. We are in constant contact with the world around us but we often don’t take time to notice. Wherever you are now take a moment to mentally work your way up from your toes to your head. Perhaps you can feel you feet against the carpet or snuggled into socks; are your legs resting on the couch or supported by a chair; what is supporting your back, let it support you, feel your hands relax onto the cushion or arm rest; are your shoulder hunched up tight, feel them soften; your head, is it resting or self-supported, is your face tight with a frown, can you relax your mouth and unclench your teeth – smile a little and breath.
It can sometimes feel a little self indulgent to take time for ourselves, especially if others depend on us. The weight of the world is a heavy load to carry on your shoulders and lugging it around for too long is going to slow you down. It’s important that we don’t just exercise our physical bodies but also check in with our minds. Give it a chance to reboot and for the sake of just a few minutes a day you are likely to see benefits such as improved focus, a feeling of calm and better control over negative thoughts and rumination.
Give it a try, I’d love to know how you get on 🙂