Mindfulness: Day-to-Day Techniques to Improve Self-Awareness
What are you thinking right now? Are you focused on reading this article or are you deciding what to have for dinner tonight?
It’s easily done. Your mind wanders here and there and suddenly you’re no longer focused on the task or surroundings. Sometimes as our heads fill up with thoughts, we can become anxious and feel overwhelmed; a thousand thoughts running through our minds. Our minds can spend too much time on past or future events that cause us distress, ruminating over problems we cannot control in the present
So, ask yourself this; Is your mind full or are you mindful?
Mindfulness isn’t just a 21st century craze; in fact it has been around for centures! Mindfulness has stood the test of time as a practice that helps increase our day to day awareness. Modern studies show that mindfulness helps to build resilience, even in highly stressful times. The research says it works, but what actually is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing. It is about understanding the way our mind works and fully observing the moments we are in.
This may all sound a little trivial and you may think “of course, we’re all in the moment, we’re not time travellers!”. But you will be surprised how little we truly pay attention to what we’re doing, and what is around us.
The best part is mindfulness isn’t something you have to dedicate hours of your day to. You can continue your daily routine, but approach each task mindfully. You can try a little each day and build up as you go. After all, mindfulness is a practice.
The important thing to remember about mindfulness is that even when you try to focus your attention on what you are doing, your mind will wander. But that’s okay - that is part of what having a mind is all about. Simply take note of these thoughts and bring yourself back to the moment.
Our bodies are amazing; we breathe throughout the day without even thinking about it. This is what keeps us alive. Mindful breathing can help bring your focus back to the present moment. At the start of the day, take 5 mindful breaths. Don’t force your breathing – simply take notice of your breath and body.
• How does your body move when you breathe?
• Notice the rise and fall of your belly
• How do you feel this morning?
• Is your breath easy and full or is it shallow?
You can also practice mindful breathing throughout your day. Perhaps sat at your desk at work, readying yourself to fully concentrate on that big report, or whilst you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Allow your body to be filled with deep breaths and give yourself focus. You can end your day with mindful breathing too, focusing your mind for a deep sleep.
You don’t have to go for a long walk to walk mindfully. You could walk to work, or try parking further away or you could get off the bus a stop earlier than usual to practice walking mindfully to your destination.
• How does your body feel today? Are there any aches and pains?
• Notice the rhythm of your footsteps
• If you’re listening to music, pay attention to the individual sounds
• What is around you? What can you see and hear?
You may even notice things you’ve never seen in the hundred times you’ve walked this path. Mindful walking not only gives your body exercise; it exercises your mind too. As with any exercise, the more you do, the stronger you get.
Mindful Eating and Drinking
Hands up, who has been guilty of snacking away without paying attention to what you are actually eating? Yes, I see you. You, with your hand halfway up. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Eating lunch at your desk to save time and meet deadlines, or watching television more worried about whodunit than the food on your fork. Food is full of wonderful flavours and can be enjoyed beyond just fuelling our bodies. Make time to sit and appreciate your food and drink mindfully, or even take a step back and cook mindfully.
• What flavours can you taste?
• What textures are there?
• What colours can you see in the food?
• Read each step of your recipe with focus
Bring all of your senses into lunch or dinner time and be amazed with how much more enjoyment you get from your food.
I don’t want to do it, but I’ll do it mindfully…. Mindful Chores.
We all have tasks in our day-to-day lives that we’d rather we didn’t have to do. Cleaning, washing up, doing the laundry and making the bed - the not-so-fun stuff. It’s easier to start letting your mind wander, making to-do lists or re-running that argument in your head with what you could have said.
You’ve got to do the task, so why not take the time to practice being mindful? Let’s take washing up as an example.
• Notice the temperature of the water on your hands
• Notice the bubbles and how the light reflects off them
• How are you feeling today?
• What else can you see and hear in your home?
When we pay attention to the present moment and our surroundings, it can help us find pleasure in tasks we don’t usually enjoy.
Mindfulness is a practice and the first time you try it, you may be unsure or find it difficult and confusing. That’s okay, just keep trying!
The brilliant thing about mindfulness is that it can be practiced throughout your day, without having to change your daily routine. In fact, mindfulness is innate within us. The ability to be present in the moment and focus our attention is a powerful tool available to everybody.
Remember, your mind is likely to wander and if it does, bring it back to the moment. Mindfulness helps us to appreciate the patterns in our mind – maybe it wanders to the same topic each time or perhaps it wanders more at particular times of the day.
Being aware of how we think helps us to improve our self-awareness and can have a positive impact on our mental health.
Therapy For You has now introduced a Mindfulness online course! You can learn how to introduce the practice into your day-to-day life and how it can benefit you and your mental health. Watch the videos at a time and place that suits you. The course even includes audio recordings with mindfulness techniques you can practice in your own time. Sign up to the course today or get in touch for more information.
Therapy For You provides a range of therapy services, from psychoeducation to group sessions and 1-1 therapies, which can be delivered face to face, over the phone and online, engaging in the help you need, whatever your circumstances. This service is available to those over 18 living in Southend, Rochford, Rayleigh and Castle Point and throughout Basildon, Brentwood and Billericay. If you’d like to know more about how we can help you, get in touch today.