Do you ever find that you mind is always busy, always full? Maybe you feel like you never seem to have a moment's peace and you're always trying to play catch up?
When i get like this it's when there seems to be more jobs to do than hours in the day and my mind seems to be running at full speed, never still.
That's when i make sure i practice some mindfulness, to help quieten my mind, and to help prioritise what needs to be done, and also what doesn't need to be done.
Mindfulness is something that's becoming more common place in our language but many people still are unsure what it actually means. I'm a big advocate of mindfulness, both for myself, and also for my clients, so let me try and explain it to you so that you might be able to make use of it yourself. Mindfulness comes from meditative practice but you don't have to meditate to be mindful. I'm a very active person and although i like yoga, i tend to be mindful when being active, so don't be put off by thinking you need to meditate for 45 minutes every day, because you don't!
The essence of mindfulness is to be very present in this moment, be very aware of the now. Often we spend our lives thinking about the past, or already thinking ahead to what hasn't happened yet. This means that we miss out on a lot of the "now" moments, and by missing these "now" moments we're not seeing everything around us, we're not hearing people fully when they speak to us, and we're not fully engaging in those moments.
If you're someone who worries a lot, or dwells on what has happened in the past, then mindfulness can help you quieten your mind, and focus on the now, perhaps seeing things for the first time and realising that life isn't all negative, that there are some positives. Once you start to focus on the now, and start seeing things anew, you might find that you start to enjoy things that previously you wouldn't have spotted, like a new bud growing on a shrub you thought had died, or smelling the flowers as you walk down the road whereas previously you hadn't noticed them.
To be mindful you just need to direct your attention to something in the present moment, whether this be your breathing (don't change your breathing rate, just notice how it feels when you breathe in and out), or perhaps focusing on what you can feel as you're sitting down reading this (where your body touches the sofa underneath/behind you, whether any parts of your body are crossing, whether what you're sitting on is hard, soft, smooth, rough, cold, warm, etc.). Whilst doing this you're not thinking or doing anything else. I often catch myself being very unmindful when i'm watching TV whilst also doing stuff on my laptop. Before long i'm finding i have to stop the TV and rewind because i've missed stuff due to not paying attention properly. Yes, we can multitask, but if we're choosing to be mindful then we do only one thing at a time.
Now i can guarantee that your mind will not stay focused on your breathing, or how your body feels, for very long before it wanders off to something else, such as what you need to do later, or what the kids are doing in the other room. That's normal, so don't worry about it, don't berate yourself for thinking you're not very good at mindfulness - the fact you have recognised that your mind has wandered is very mindful. The trick is now to just brick your attention back to what you were focusing on in the moment, and continue to practice mindfulness until you are done - perhaps start off with a minute or two and build up, depending on the activity.
Some basic instructions...just practice and see...
I used mindfulness a lot when i was learning to breathe with my head in the water when swimming doing front crawl, swallowing lots of water and finding my mind was full of negative comments such as "I can't do this", "this is too hard!" Mindfulness helped me focus on the task in hand and let go of the negative doubts that were working against me. When swimming and starting to get bored, or starting to let the doubts set in again, i can use mindfulness and focus on my technique, focus on my breathing, focus on the feel of the water, etc., and soon the time is flying by. One of my favourite mindful activities is mindful running...no music, just me and the open road...suddenly i'm hearing the different sounds of the cars, especially when there are puddles, i'm hearing my own breathing, or i'm hearing nothing at all...it's so peaceful.
Another really useful use of mindfulness is for pain and i practised this just 1/2 hour ago! I use it when racing or training hard and in pain to focus my mind and suddenly the pain seems less. In the case of 1/2 hr ago, i was in the car with my back killing me and i mindfully focused on the pain and suddenly the throbbing became less. When i stop being mindful then yes, the pain returns, but mindfulness can give you respite from the pain so it pays to be mindful ;)
Mindfulness takes practice, it's like any skill, you won't be an expert at it straight away. But you can be mindful is so many different ways that it doesn't have to take time out of your day, just time away from the mindless thinking that normally happens. Next time you're chopping veg, or washing you hair, focus your mind on the task in hand, be that the smells, or the sensations, or the sounds that you hear. Every day tasks can be done mindfully, you just need to focus on that moment, rather than planning the day ahead whilst you have a shower, or trying to do 3 things at once when chopping veg.
Practicing mindfulness for just a few minutes every day can make a big difference to your life overall, suddenly you find yourself letting go of things in your mind easier, or you find you stop judging yourself and others as much (mindfulness is all about being non-judgmental). You pay more attention to the task in hand, rather than trying to juggle too many things at once and dropping one, or more, or the balls. Mindfulness becomes a way of life rather than a skill, but to be mindful you do it on purpose, to be very aware and present in the moment. So why not try it? Go back to the questions i asked at the start: "Do you ever find that you mind is always busy, always full? Maybe you feel like you never seem to have a moment's peace and you're always trying to play catch up? "
If you can relate to these questions, maybe find that you often think negatively about yourself, or life, then you have nothing to lose by practicing mindfulness, other than the chaos that is in your mind! What you will gain will also be a sense of calmness and feeling a whole lot lighter. So go on, try it...walk mindfully, eat mindfully, listen mindfully...just be very aware, present in the moment, focusing on just one thing and being aware of what is factual, rather than what are your own judgments. Your mind will wander, but just keep bringing it back, letting go of what is dragging you down and instead focusing on what is now, what is real...