09-Jan-2018

Practical mindfulness

Too busy to sit and meditate? Can’t possibly juggle family and work responsibilities and that yoga class you’re wanting to attend? We get it.

As life becomes busier and demands on our time mean we are stretched to the limit, it’s easy to get caught up in life’s treadmill.

We’re often so busy with work, family commitments, chores and social obligations that we get caught up in activity, and forget that mindfulness is an important aspect of self care.

Author, psychologist and mindfulness teacher, Tara Brach says mindfulness is “a way of paying attention moment-to-moment to what's happening within and around us, without judgement.”

Why is mindfulness important? Mindfulness Teacher and founder of the Mudita Institute and Health Clinic, Michael Doko Haatchett, says mindfulness has been shown to “defuse destructive emotions, manage behaviour, reduce stress, sharpen concentration, increase empathy and optimism, as well as build resilience and prevent burnout.”

With all those benefits, it’s worth finding a way to weave mindfulness into your daily life.

If you’re super busy, and reluctant to add anything more to your to-do list, try following Living Smart’s simple tips for bringing mindfulness to everyday activities.

In fact, the whole idea of mindfulness is to be able to apply it to your everyday life.

 
How to bring mindfulness to everyday tasks

Presence:
Be present and concentrate on the task at hand. It is surprising how often we are stuck in autopilot mode and are doing one thing while thinking about others. Mindfulness is the antithesis of distracted multitasking – in mindfulness, the attention is focused, conscious, observant.

Let your thoughts arise…and then leave:
Watch your thoughts but don’t get caught up in them, simply let them be. If your mind becomes restless (and it will!) and drifts away from the present moment, gently bring it back what is happening in the here and now. Don’t be concerned if you have to bring your attention back many times during the practice.

Physical awareness:
The breath is a fabulous anchor for mindfulness. Become aware of your breath and how it feels. Is it deep or shallow, fast or slow? Are you breathing in and out through your nose or mouth? Bring your attention to the physical sensations such as how your body feels during the activity and whether that changes. Notice the sights and smells around you.

No judgement:
Mindfulness is about accepting whatever arises without judgement, blame or guilt. Be gentle on yourself and simply let your experiences and thoughts be. If critical or guilty thoughts arise, acknowledge them and bring your attention back to the task at hand.

Dealing with distractions:
Distractions will inevitably occur. Dealing with them is part of the practice. It is important to note any distractions as they arise, name the distraction (such as ‘person next door coming home’), then bring your attention back to the present moment’s activity.

 
Five everyday tasks for mindfulness practice

Mindfulness can be practiced for any length of time: five minutes to half an hour and beyond. To obtain maximum benefit, you’ll need to practice regularly, preferably several times a day. Eventually, you will find it easier to practice mindfulness as you live, work and play.

Eating
This is a great activity for slowing yourself down when you are out and about, or when feeling stressed at work. It also greatly assists digestion.

Take the time to stop for ten minutes and mindfully eat lunch at work, or a snack at home. Become aware of the present moment and bring your mind to the task of eating. What do you notice about how you eat? How does the food taste? Is it sweet, salty, sour, bitter? What is the texture? Bring your attention to your body, your posture, and the entire process of tasting, chewing and swallowing.

Watching the kids play sport
Focus entirely on the activity – your child, their techniques, how they run, hit, kick, dance. Their physical movements. What are their facial expressions when different circumstances or encounters arise? How do they interact with other players? Do they look back at you after certain motions?

Ironing
Ironing is an easy chore to turn into a mindfulness practice. Be present and focus on the tasks involved from the outset: getting out the ironing board and iron, setting it up and the ironing itself. How does your body feel standing to iron? Do your legs feel strong, tired, sore? Be aware of the movement of the body as the iron flows back and forth. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the activity of ironing.

Walking/jogging
Did you know that you can turn your morning walk or run into a mindfulness activity? Rather than plugging in your phone, discard the headphones and tune into what is going on around you, and how your body is feeling. Feel the movement of your body, the sensation of your footsteps on the ground. Notice the sounds and sights around you. By practising mindfulness while walking or jogging, you will obtain the benefits of the exercise, your mind will be freer and you’ll feel more relaxed.

Just about any cleaning activity
Turn dusting, vacuuming, washing dishes, polishing furniture or washing your car into a mindfulness practice just by bringing yourself into the present moment with the task you are undertaking. You’re not thinking ahead, not planning another activity, just fully immersed in what you are doing, the sensations, the movements and the experience.

After each practice, it is helpful to take a couple of deep breaths before moving onto the rest of your day or evening.

Helpful resources

  1. Black Dog Institute, Mindfulness in everyday life
  2. Headspace, 5 ways to get mindfulness into your everyday life
  3. Tara Brach, and Tara’s free podcasts are available to download for Apple or Android
  4. Breathe Magazine: available online and in newsagents

 

Apps:

  1. Headspace (one of the most popular Apps and has been downloaded over 18 million times)
  2. Mindful: Free mindfulness apps worthy of your attention

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