Chances are you've heard of the term 'mindfulness'. It's a term that has been used a lot recently, with promises that it can help you to be happier, less anxious and even slimmer.
Mindfulness essentially means being present in the moment, rather than allowing our thoughts to spiral into worries about the past or the future. When we're mindful, we're focused totally in the here and now, and we're able to observe any troublesome thoughts or feelings, without judgement, as they arise.
It's sort of like being at the controls of your mind, rather than going on to autopilot. Unfortunately for many of us, our 'autopilot' thoughts involve negative, repetitive worries, ruminating over things in the past or beating ourselves up over stuff. Not ideal.
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Here, I suggest 5 practical things you can do to bring more mindfulness into your life.
1. Checking In
To avoid spiralling in to stressful states all day, schedule regular check-ins with yourself. Until it becomes a habit, you could set a reminder in your phone several times a day to ask yourself ''How am I in this moment? Am I ok?”.
Many of our worries are about stuff in the future, but when we take a moment to simply notice that, right now, we're basically ok, we bring ourselves back to the present and we can start to appreciate the things we have right now. Noticing that we're warm, safe, that we have enough food in the fridge and a little money in the bank, teaches us to remember that things are (almost) always ok in the moment.
2. Do a Body Scan
This super simple (and enjoyable) 5 minute technique can be done anywhere. It's perfect for when your mind is racing as you get in to bed and you're desperate to sleep (but can't relax) or if you just want to ground yourself and calm your mind before an important meeting.
Start with your toes and move through each muscle group, telling each part to relax. For example, say to yourself 'my toes are relaxed' and allow all the tiny muscles in your toes to become soft and relaxed. Then move up through your feet, ankles, calves, thighs, hips, stomach, back, arms, hands, neck all the way to your facial muscles. Tell yourself that each muscle is relaxing and allow the muscles to become soft and comfortable.
As you're focused on doing this, you're tuned in to the present, and the result is that you feel relaxed and fully in your body (ie. not stuck in your head!).
3. Visual Reminders
You've heard of people tying a piece of string around their finger to remind themselves of something, right? This technique involves a similar principle.
A big barrier stopping us from being mindful is that we simply forget to come back to the present moment. We're so used to worrying about the future or the past that it's a habit that we're stuck in.
So try this: create a visual reminder, so that every time you spot it, it reminds you to come back to the present moment. Some ideas could be a sign or ornament on your desk, a bracelet or even something on your nails. It should be something new and slightly unusual that gets your attention to serve as a powerful reminder to you. Polka dot nails anyone?
4. Take a Mindful Break
Often we'll cram our days and nights so full that we hardly get a moment of rest, let alone time to connect with ourselves and the present moment. I've found that for most people, unless we consciously create time and space to reflect and find some peace, the day runs away from us and we end up feeling frazzled and exhausted.
I suggest taking a mindful break each day; to meditate, talk a walk outside and notice the scenery around you, listen to some calming music while doing nothing else, or just eat a meal quietly and mindfully, paying complete attention to your food.
When we take a break, get off the 'treadmill' of life and just take some time for us, we'll return to work feeling refreshed and clear headed.
5. Commit to What You're Doing
A lot of our stress comes from the gap between what's happening in the moment and what we wish was happening. How many times have you been at the gym, wishing that you were at home catching up on 'House of Cards'? Or got stuck in resentment while you work late, torturing yourself over missing dinner with your friends?
It all comes down to accepting the things that we can't change (you know that gym workout has got to be done!) while fully committing yourself to doing it in the moment.
So whatever you find yourself doing, fully absorb yourself in that task. Give it your full attention. We almost always have a choice about what we do, so remind yourself that you have chosen this and focus on it fully. You'll be more present, more accepting and less stressed about it.
Chloe Brotheridge is a hypnotherapist and anxiety expert. Get a FREE relaxation MP3 when you visit www.calmer-you.com or for 121 sessions of hypnotherapy in London see www.easywaytochange.co.uk