The last six months have certainly been testing for most of us, with Corona-anxiety at an all time high and social media fanning the flames. Juggling kids and work may have left you exhausted, or you may be worried about money due to the lockdown period and business closures.
Whatever your worries, it’s safe to say that 2020 has shaken up the norm in many ways. If you are feeling a little anxious, worried or mentally frazzled, you may be wondering how best to tackle it, but one simple concept may be able to help you feel calmer and less stressed overall.
What’s more, it’s free and you can do it at any time! What is this magic stress reliever, we hear you cry? Mindfulness!
Mindfulness – what actually is it?
Mindfulness is, at its essence, the practice of focusing on what you are doing and paying attention to the present. That’s it!
Although that sounds simple, it can actually take quite a bit of time to master. Nowadays we usually have a million things going through our heads at any one time, and we rarely give our full attention to any one thing. In fact, we are more likely to be harbouring a brain that feels more like a laptop with 43 tabs open, and two of them playing music!
TV, social media, the news agenda, life laundry, kids and work all add up to a huge mental burden, and many mums end up flopping into bed exhausted at the end of every day, and giving our social media feeds one last check before trying to switch our brains off for sleep.
If this sounds familiar, mindfulness can really help you to ease stress, slow down and focus more on certain aspects of life rather than rushing through everything on autopilot.
How can mindfulness benefit me?
The NHS website includes a full section on mindfulness, stating that, becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.
Mental Health website, mentalhealth.org.uk says that; while research is still growing in the area of mindfulness, evidence has suggested the benefit of mindfulness to health and wellbeing, with results showing positive effects on several aspects of whole-person health, including the mind, the brain, the body, and behaviour, as well as a person’s relationships with others. You can read the full article here.
The idea is that you fully invest in and focus on the present, so – even if you are doing the washing up – you pay complete attention to the task at hand. Notice the heat of the water, the light bouncing on the bubbles, the feel of the suds as they form and the smell of the soap. Let your thoughts come and go without judgement and without fixating on them, and let your brain rest and focus on the present moment.
As well as focusing on the present, mindfulness helps you to develop an awareness of your thoughts and feelings that come and go in any one moment. On the NHS website page highlighted above, Professor Mark Williams says,
“Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.
“This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.”
Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday
There are many small ways you can introduce mindfulness into your everyday life, and after a little practice, you may find yourself becoming more mindful overall, which – in turn – may ease your stress and give you a calmer sense of wellbeing, Here are three that may be of interest to the active mum…
- Mindful walking (or running!) Going for a mindful walk or run may include leaving the mobile at home, and focusing entirely on your journey and the movements of your body. Notice the sun against your face, the wind or breeze on your skin, how the ground feels underfoot and the different smells and sensations that you experience as you go along. Focus on the sights around you, the different people, animals and scenery, as well as your body and its movements.
- Mindful eating Mindful eating is another way to include mindfulness in your daily routine. Rather than racing through a meal or eating absentmindedly, focus entirely on your food, the flavours and sensations, the colours, smells, textures and tastes. Eat slowly and think about each mouthful as you munch.
- Mindful stretching Exercise can also be mindful. In the morning why not get up early and do some mindful, meditative stretching? Focus on your body, its contours, your breathing, the morning light and the feel of the exercises on your muscles. Try to relax and focus entirely on the task at hand and let your thoughts come and go naturally, observing them and your feelings as they pass through.
If you really want to learn more about mindfulness, there are hundreds of guided mindfulness sessions available online, on YouTube and on apps, too. Additionally, you may even find some mindfulness practitioners in your area that offer guided group or one-to-one sessions where you can really find out more about this important and interesting practice. Many sessions use meditation, yoga and breathing to really help you relax, focus and leave the stress of the day behind.
You can read the full NHS page on mindfulness here.