Today, World Mental Health Day, sees the launch of 'In Case of Spiritual Emergency' - a valuable resource for mental health professionals and others. The key tool for coping with crisis that I present in my new book is Mindfulness. So for World Mental Health Day I'd like to share my article that was published in last month's issue of Yoga Magazine.
Ten Top Tips for Bringing Mindfulness into Your Daily Life
Too busy? Too stressed? The benefits of meditation have long been recognised, but not everybody wants or likes to meditate. Mindfulness is meditation’s twin sister. We can incorporate it easily into our existing daily routine, without having to find extra time or do formal sitting meditation on a cushion. Mindfulness helps us to be in the present moment, without dwelling on the past or worrying about something that hasn’t even happened in the future. And if you do meditate regularly, then Mindfulness will come to you even more easily!
1 Choose one meal a day that you’re going to eat mindfully. Do you talk, read or even walk about while you’re eating? This will be the one meal when you give yourself permission to simply eat. So choose a mealtime when you know you can be alone and sit down to really savour those flavours. Explore the colours, textures, tastes of each and every mouthful. Enjoy!
2 When walking, whether to the local shop or from one office building to another, incorporate mindful walking into your day. Drop down into your body. Feel the soles of your feet against the ground with each step you take. Stay focussed on the physical sensations of the movement. If your mind wanders off, gently bring it back to the soles of your feet. Start with a few minutes and gradually build up to 10-15 minutes.
3 Introduce 3-minute ‘breathing spaces’ into your day. These are mini-mini-meditations; great little tools with big benefits! So whether you need a break from the computer screen or need to centre yourself after driving somewhere or between clients, try this. Ideally, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground and close your eyes. If that’s not possible, don’t worry – these can even be done standing in the queue at the supermarket checkout! Start by checking in with yourself. How are you doing right now, physically, mentally, emotionally? We’re not trying to change anything. We’re just noticing how it is right now, what’s present for us right now. When you’ve had time to do that, take your attention to the breath. Follow it for a few cycles, simply noticing the physical movement and sensations. When you’re ready you can re-engage with the day feeling refreshed.
4 If, like most of us, your mind tends to be very busy, notice what kind of thinking the mind is engaged in. For example, is it rehearsing a conversation, planning, brooding, catastrophising, daydreaming, drafting an email? Just becoming aware of the kind of activity the mind is busy with can help us to step back a little, cultivate the observer and be more in the present moment.
5 Does over-work and too much stress leave you feeling tired, dull and flat? Whilst acknowledging how we’re feeling, we can intentionally seek out the pleasurable, the beautiful, the enjoyable. A good question to ask when we’re struggling is ‘what else is in my experience right now?’ There will always be something, no matter how small or subtle, that is positive in our experience right now. Maybe you can feel the breeze on your skin, maybe the cup of tea you’re holding feels warm in your hands ...
6 Find ways of being kind and gentle with yourself. Notice when comfort eating or flopping in front of the telly is self-defeating and find real treats for yourself. Bring awareness and mindfulness into your self-care and self-nurturing.
7 If you have a daily yoga practice, you’re probably already practising Mindfulness! The way we bring ourselves into the present moment is through the body and the five senses. So during your practice really focus on the physical sensations. When the mind wanders off simply bring it back patiently, without any sense of judgement.
8 Choose one routine activity a day to practise Mindfulness. That might be cleaning your teeth, having a shower or washing up. Spend that time really focussing on the physical sensations of the hot water on your skin, the taste of the toothpaste and so on. Involve as many of the five senses as possible to help you be totally in the present moment.
9 Changing our relationship to what we find difficult lies at the heart of Mindfulness. Our default mode is to resist anything we find painful, physically or emotionally. We don’t want it to be happening; we want it to go away. Unfortunately this only makes our suffering worse. If we can gently turn towards it, say ‘hello’ to it, life will become easier. Start by noticing where you might be resisting aspects of your experience. Be compassionate towards yourself.
10 If stress, whether caused by work, relationships or health, is a major concern for you, consider finding a Mindfulness course to help you learn the tools for a better quality of life. Whatever issue or problem you’re struggling with, Mindfulness can’t and won’t make it go away; what it can and will do is help you to cope and look after yourself.