Modern life is fast – so fast you can almost forget to breathe. But if we’re serious about self-care, about learning to love and look after ourselves, we need time out.
We need to slow down, re-centre and catch our breath. We need to learn to listen to ourselves. And evidence is piling up that mindfulness is one of the best ways to do just that.
It’s also linked to a bunch of physical, emotional and mental health benefits. And it’s a brilliant way to bust stress and stop feeling overwhelmed.
At the heart of mindfulness is the simple practice of paying attention. It’s about developing a gentle awareness of what’s inside and outside – of your thoughts and feelings, of the ebb and flow of bodily sensation, as well as the things around you.
It’s also about acceptance – paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, letting them come and go without judgment. With mindfulness there’s no right or wrong way to think or feel.
Most of us spend too much time dwelling on the past or fretting about the future. We beat ourselves – or others – up for past wrongs, we fear what might be just around the corner. But mindfulness, by focussing on the here and now, reminds us that the past is gone, and the future is unknown. So don’t fixate. Come back to the present moment – it’s where the action is.
WHAT’S IT GOT TO DO WITH SELF-CARE?
Everything. Unless we slow down and listen to ourselves, we’ll never learn what makes us tick. We’ll never notice what makes us feel good and what drags us down. We’ll never tune in to the background chatter in our minds – never stand back and start to notice our self-hating, self-defeating thoughts. Nor will we learn what our bodies need to make them flourish.
Mindfulness is the mind’s answer to the body positive. Without self-acceptance there can never be self-love.
HOW DO I BECOME MORE MINDFUL?
Keep it simple. Remind yourself to take notice – acknowledge your thoughts and feelings, try and see the world around you – taste your food, listen to your music, notice the weather. Step out of autopilot and pay attention. And remember, take things as they come – don’t judge, whether it’s thoughts, feelings, sensations or events.
Practice is key. Keep it regular. Try picking a time – and really focus on what’s going on inside and out.
Break your patterns, step out of your ruts – why not try a different route to work? Go somewhere new. Eat something different – and really concentrate on it.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS
Start paying attention to what’s going on in your head and it can feel like a crazy place – thoughts and feelings all over the shop. But don’t worry. Those wise old Buddhists have worked with this for thousands of years – they call it ‘the monkey mind.’
But you are not your thoughts. They come and they go – they can make you feel anxious or sad or angry or happy – but they’re not you. Learn to watch them in and watch them out – they’re like trains at a station – you don’t have to get on board.
MINDFULNESS GUIDED MEDITATION
Why not take mindfulness one step further and try it with meditation? Mindfulness meditation is a simple practice, open to everyone, that can help reduce stress and boost mental wellbeing.
It’s about learning to listen in to that wandering mind, calming the monkey and beginning to live more in the moment. It’s a great way to help build self-care into your daily routine.
The basic techniques are easy to learn, and you can start to reap the benefits sooner than you might think.