What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment as it happens – what’s occurring around you and what you experience inside (your thoughts, sensations and emotions). The ability to notice also needs to be coupled with acceptance (allowing things to be as they are), and a good dose of self-compassion (acknowledging when things are tough). Mindfulness helps us manage difficult moments and to truly appreciate the good times.
Tips for improving your mindfulness
- Build a daily routine - Routines give a sense of rhythm to our day which can be deeply comforting. It also helps to boost your circadian rhythms (sleep/ wake cycle), promoting the chance of better quality sleep, which we all know is central to feeling good. As much as you can, try to wake up at the same time each day. Kick off your morning with a healthy breakfast, so you can think with clarity, and get dressed in an outfit that helps you feel comfortable. Set some loose boundaries to your day, with regular times to exercise, socialise, enjoy meals and switch off and relax in the evening.
- Commit time towards your wellbeing - Exercise, even if it’s just a brief 15 min walk is vital to your physical and mental health. The payoff from building exercise into your daily routine is huge, and your body will thank you. The healthier and happier you are, the more likely you are to enjoy life. Meditation and exercise are both important investments in your wellbeing since they are proven to reduce stress. Stress weakens the immune system, which can make us more vulnerable to illness.
- Create a harmonious environment - Outer order helps to create inner harmony, so make your bed, straighten up your living space, and throw the curtains open to maximise natural light. If you can, get outside and enjoy the soothing effects of being in nature, but even watching the moving cloudscape through your window can help you feel grounded.
- Focus your mind - When your mind feels full or worries are looming large, bring it back to something constructive by thinking about what lies within your control. We can get caught in an endless spiral of ‘what ifs’, but ‘what can I do’ puts you back in the driver’s seat. If your mind keeps flitting to things beyond your control, go gently on yourself and use the healthy distractions like the ones below.
- Move for mental health - We often associate the benefits of movement with the physical body but we need it just as much for our minds. Nothing fancy is required! Some gentle yoga stretches to release tension, a swift walk up and down the stairs to get the blood and endorphins pumping.
- Breathe better to feel better - Slowing down your breath can calm your mind and body, but if focusing on the breath alone feels difficult, move with the breath instead: find a comfortable place to rest your hands, palms facing upwards. As you breathe in, open your hands fully and as you breathe out, make a gentle fist. Keep focusing on the movement of your hands and notice how this relaxes your breathing – a great distraction from unhelpful thoughts.
- Make time to connect - Connection is like soul food, so make the time to talk on the phone, send a text to check in and just communicate with your family and friends.
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