I was reminded yesterday (via a Lynda.com course) of how wonderful the art of mindfulness is – so easy, so simple, open to anyone and has been shown to have miraculous effects. I haven’t read an awful lot of research on it yet (will do soon though) but the evidence I’ve heard about and seen for myself seems pretty clear. When I spend time, even just a minute or two, focusing on nothing but my immediate surroundings, with no judgement or opinion, just observation, my stress levels lower, my head clears and I can make better decisions, understand others better and get more done.
I think the mindfulness practice can get caught up in a whole load of what people see as hippy bullshit about meditation, loving yourself, hugging trees etc. While I’ll openly admit I could probably imagine myself doing all of that with the right group of friends and mixture of drugs, I urge you to suspend your judgement for 5 minutes and give it a go. Not just once either, do it a few times cos it might have a different effect each time dependant on circumstance, how long you do it for, the weather, your mood, which pants you’re wearing, whatever. I sometimes find it harder some days than others. And if you find it hard to believe it will make a difference, DO IT ANYWAY. It’s only a few minutes 😉
Here’s the ways I get mindful:
- Focus on the food I’m eating. Really feel the textures in your mouth, savour the tastes and take a long time to chew every mouthful. Try to pick out all the different flavours and work out which you like best. Find out whether you actually like the taste of the food (surprising how often I do this and realise I don’t really like what I’m eating!) Best done on your own otherwise your friend might wonder why you’re ignoring them. Also has the added benefit of making you eat less as you’re more aware of how full you are.
- Notice all the sounds around me. I did it this morning in fact while I was walking the dog – there were birds singing, cars going by, someone banging a hammer whilst building and the gentle rustle of the poo bag I was holding (ah, the joys of dog ownership!) Notice all the sounds around you, the obvious and the less obvious. Let your thoughts that stem from these sounds drift on past and re-focus just on the noises themselves.
- Create a calming and repetitive vision to focus on. Mine is a stick man (representing me) walking alongside a road and sitting on a bench. I see cars driving past on the road (I think of these as my thoughts, just driving on past). There are a few cartoon trees and stuff too. My stick man can sit there for quite a while and watch cars go by. It probably works best if the vision isn’t too complicated and can go on for a while.
- Notice my breathing. A yoga / meditation classic, but also works pretty well. Quick and easy, although I find this one easier in a quiet place otherwise it’s easy to get distracted.
- Look at my surroundings. This is quite useful for if you’re travelling or stuck somewhere and can’t move for whatever reason and need a mindfulness fix. Look at your surroundings and notice all the details, the colour of a wall, the shape of a chair, the weather, the number of cars on the road. No need for any of this to stem further thought, just notice things. I sometimes do this on my bike ride to work in the mornings – I notice the type of trees, the clouds in the sky, the colours of cars, the surface of the road. Possibly not quite as effective as other ways but can be useful sometimes.
Happy Mindfulness! Let me know what else you’ve tried that works for you 🙂