If you read my January Reads blog post, you’ll know that I recently read Ruby Wax’s new book ‘How to be Human: The Manual’. Although I had already experimented with mindfulness, this book really inspired me to get back on the mindful horse and really take the time to tune in with my body each day. It has really helped, and so I wanted to share my views of mindfulness with all you lovely readers.
My journey with mindfulness originally began about a year ago when I began volunteering with a mental health charity. Not only did I have fun and help others, but I also learnt a lot of new skills; one being mindfulness. Prior to this I had never tried mindfulness before, and I have to say I sat with the camp of people who thought it was a weird hippie thing that I would surely never try. Yet try I did! And it has been one of the most useful skills I have ever learnt.
Being mindful means being aware of ourselves and the world around us, so practising mindfulness often involves taking notice of the here and now (what’s happening in the present moment, whether its within yourself or within your surroundings). Not only is mindfulness great for a daily check in to see how your feeling / what the weather is like within, but it also great for keeping up to date with how you are doing. I use this to sense whether a period of low mood or anxiety is coming, and this allows me to make changes to my day to day life to account for this; i.e. keeping my evenings after work and my weekends free, spending less time on social media, scheduling in some time for self-care.
Benefits. I won’t bore you with lots of research, but mindfulness has been found to help with a wide array of things, including:
- mental wellbeing
- responding to your emotions in appropriate / non-judgemental manner
- being kinder to yourself / self-compassion
- can help manage depression, stress, anxiety etc.
Tools for mindfulness
You can practice mindfulness alone using a timer once you are quite experienced, but this does require some practice and I wouldn’t recommend jumping straight to this. I use many tools that provide guided mindfulness, which help you practice / build experience, and are easier as if your mind wanders the instructor always brings you back to your breath or thoughts or whatever you are focusing on. So here are some tools I would recommend (if there are any others you use please let me know in the comments as I would love to expand):
- Apps – I use headspace as its really easy to use, and the guy who does the voice overs has a really soothing voice. There are other apps which I’m sure I will experiment with at some point but right now I am happy using sticking to what I know and trust.
- Youtube – There are some really good youtube channels that post guided mindfulness sessions. Some I have used in the past are ‘the mindful movement’ and ‘calm’.
- Books – I must admit I haven’t read many books on mindfulness, but ‘How to be human’ was really good for highlighting key information about mindfulness and the benefits of it. The beauty of this book also, was that its talked about mindfulness from Ruby’s point of view (someone who practices regularly), a neuroscientist’s
point of view (who comments on the effect of the brain), and also a monk’s point of view (who talks about the effects on life).
- Guided mindfulness sessions – such as headspace. These often focus on the breath, and bringing focus back to the breath when you get distracted by your thoughts.
- Body scans. These focus on honing your attention to each part of your body noticing any sensations. You generally move slowly from your toes all the way up to the top of your head, and then move more swiftly back down again in a sweeping like motion.
- Completing a task mindfully. You can do this with any task you complete everyday such as making a cup of coffee. Notice the sounds, smells, taste of your coffee – it sounds weird but don’t knock it till you try it.
- Observing sounds. You can do this by sitting still and listening to the sounds around you. You shouldn’t judge the sounds or spend too much time thinking about them, but just notice them. When your thoughts distract you bring your attention back to the sounds around you.
Of course there are lots more ways you can practice mindfulness / be mindful on a day to day basis, but these are a few methods I have tried, and a few I have been practising most days for the past few months. These are really easy to incorporate into your daily routine and only take a few minutes. Trust me the benefits far outweigh the effort, as mindfulness has helped me feel a lot calmer. Obviously, I am well aware that mindfulness is not for everyone and thats completely fine, but I thought I would share with you what drew me to mindfulness and what techniques I have been trialling out.
Let me know in the comments what you think of mindfulness. Have you tried it? Do you practice daily?