For a long time I’d kept seeing the phrase mindfulness pop up on my social media feeds. Lots of people were talking about it, practicing it and benefiting from it, but I had dismissed the concept as just another health fad and paid little attention. That was until earlier this year when I was looking into ways to improve my mental wellbeing and was recommended by a health professional that mindfulness could be the answer so I decided to find out more about it. It turns out mindfulness is not the fad I initially thought it was and in fact is recommended by the NHS as a way for those with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, to cope and manage their mental health.
Since then I’ve been actively aiming to add mindfulness into my day. I’m at the start of my mindfulness journey and I’m aware that at the moment I only know the very basics, but I’ve found that even just incorporating a few mindfulness techniques into my daily routine has helped me to be less stressed and anxious.
What is mindfulness?
Do you ever go into autopilot and end up missing a turning or walking past where you want to go because your mind was elsewhere? Mindfulness aims to bring ourselves out of autopilot and instead to be fully aware of the present, what is going on around us and what we are doing. When I first started practicing mindfulness I was taught to be fully mindful when doing my most basic daily tasks such as brushing my teeth. This slowly helped me to become more aware and in the present throughout the day, so instead of getting overwhelmed with thoughts I could just focus on what was happening at that time.
Being fully aware in the present helps us to appreciate the small things in life that we could easily miss, for example noticing nature around us as we walk to work. When spending time with family and friends it helps us to be fully in the moment and to connect with the people close to us without worrying about other areas of our lives such work or financial problems.
Mindfulness isn’t always easy as it means acknowledging negative thoughts and emotions along with the positive ones. But confronting negativity in our mind can help us to have control over all our thoughts, even the negative ones, so that we are not overwhelmed and controlled by our thoughts.
How to incorporate simple mindfulness into your day
If like me you are new to mindfulness but want to start adding it into your day here are three easy ways of incorporating it into your daily routine:
- Acknowledge thoughts
- Be present
For years I’d always like the idea of mediating but I just didn’t think it was right for me. I’m naturally a restless person and I struggle to sit through a 2 hour film without needing to get up and move around so sitting still for 20 minutes and not doing anything just seemed impossible.
When I first started mindfulness I realised that meditating was an important part of the practice so I decided to give it one last go and used a guided meditation programme to get me started. Although I didn’t finish the programme as I found doing 40 minutes of meditation in a day was just too much for me, I have been able to carry on the practice on my own and every weekday morning I’m able to fit in 5 minutes of meditation. I use the app Calm and have found that meditation helps to clear my mind, prepare my for the day ahead and makes me feel calmer.
One of the most important concept I’ve learnt through mindfulness is to acknowledge both positive and negative thoughts are just thoughts. Before starting mindfulness I assumed that it would be about clearing the mind of all thoughts or focusing more on positive ones, however I have discovered that mindfulness is about accepting thoughts without judgment or trying to change them and ourselves. This has helped lead to more neutral thoughts and I’ve noticed that I overthink a lot less and simply just focus on what I’m doing at that specific time.
Be aware of the present
Until I started my mindfulness journey I never realised how much of my day I spend in autopilot, not really acknowledging what was going on around me and lost in my own thoughts. Since starting mindfulness I’ve become much more aware of the present. This has helped me to really appreciate and enjoy the time spent doing the things I love such as when I’m outside running or spending time with my family and friends. In the past I would often be there physically but my mind would be elsewhere as I thought and worried about stuff that I had going on in other areas of my life. Like many people I don’t get much free-time so being able to appreciate and fully enjoy the time I do get to spending doing the things I love has been one of the best aspects of my mindfulness journey so far.