Making the Most of Mindfulness
10 tips to become more mindful of the present moment
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A lot has been written about the benefits of practicing mindfulness and meditation when it comes to improving well-being. There is no doubt that, for many of us, engaging in some daily practice can be very beneficial.
But what about the rest of the day? Mindfulness is not just about those ten or twenty minutes you spend in the morning or evening. It is about developing a sense of the present throughout our day.
After all, as Ferris Bueller (from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) says,
‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’
So here’s my top ten tips to getting better at tuning into the here and now wherever that happens to be for you.
#1 – Smell the roses.. or whatever..
When preparing some food, making a coffee, or engaging in anything where you might normally find a pleasant smell, take a moment to savour the aroma.
How often do you actually stop and do that? We are often so distracted by other things that we don't appreciate that wonderful short-lived smell. And it is momentary. Our brain will quite quickly adjust to the smell and tune out.
Use those aromas as a cue to spend some time in the moment.
#2 – Splish Splash..
Use your morning wash routine to build the habit of noticing physical sensations. Make a point when you wash, whether that’s bath, shower or over the basin, to pay attention to the first splashes of water on your face. Notice the temperature, the sensations and your own internal responses. How does it make you feel? If you can do this when you are groggily coming round from the land of sleep, then you can do it anytime.
#3 Get alarmed!
Use your alarm for more than waking up or meeting reminders. Set it to sound once or twice a day to simply remind you to be mindful. When it sounds, just stop (not whilst driving or operating machinery obviously!), step away and be in the moment. Notice your surroundings, how you feel, physically and emotionally.
Aside from the health benefits of taking a short walk during your day, use it as an opportunity to take notice of the non-digital world around you.
Here’s the challenge. Leave your phone and any other electronic devices behind for between 5-15 minutes. Trust that world won’t end whilst you do so and take a walk. Allow yourself to just be wherever you happen to be. Notice the environment, the temperature, the weather, lighting, the sounds. Absorb them.
No I’m not contradicting the previous point. Here’s my socially oriented mindful moment:
Take a few moments to connect, really connect with another person. Stop other tasks, step away from email and social media and have an actual real-life conversation with another human being. Face to face or over the phone, it doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that, for the next few minutes you devote all your attention to engaging in conversation with that person.
There’s growing research about the dangers of multi-tasking when it comes to productivity, stress and performance.
But that’s not all. Multi-tasking can wreak havoc on our sense of here and now.
So, every day, pick a particular activity and make the effort to focus on just that task. No emails, phones, other tasks, music or background demands. Just absorb yourself in the activity and see how great it feels to fully engage with something. You may find you get it done quicker and make more progress too.
Obviously you are already. But take a moment each day to pay attention to your breathing. For the next five to ten breathes, pay attention to how it feels as you inhale and exhale. Don’t alter your breathing, just notice it.
#8 Slow down
Under pressure, we can find ourselves rushing more and more. This in turn leads to a sense of ‘busyness’ but not necessarily being effective. When you catch yourself rushing, make a point of deliberately slowing down. Whether it’s walking, typing, speaking or reading. Just focus on the act of slowing it down. Become aware of the movement and activity involved in slowly completing whatever it is you were doing.
#9 Time for bed
Developing a short mindfulness routine as part of settling down to sleep can help with the transition from your highly active day to a settled and restful sleep.
Spend five minutes sitting up in bed just quietly taking in your surroundings. Notice how it feels in the bed. Notice the thoughts you have in your head and the feelings that may arise. Some find it helpful to combine with a little journal writing in which they ‘thought dump.’ As you notice particular thoughts, identify those that might be likely to snag your attention and lead to rumination or worry just before bed. Jot them down in a notebook and let them go. Noticing your thoughts can help to put you into the position of an observer.
#10Bust some beats!
And here’s one last tip. Many of us love to listen to music. Often, however, we do so whilst engaged in another activity. Take a moment everyday to pick a tune and stop everything else whilst you actually listen to the music. Absorb it all.
So, go on get practicing. Life is happening here and now, whether your mind is on it or not. These are the magical moments. Why not catch a few more of them and, in the process, improve your well-being too.
Keep an eye out for the next blog.
Motivational Speaker on resilience and men's mental health.
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