Mindfulness is one of those things you can pick up pretty much straightaway. Of course, you’ll become better at your personal technique with practise, but compared to other self-developmental activities such as joining the gym or starting a diet, the results are fairly instantaneous and, well, completely free. Yep, there are apps and books to help you along the way, but essentially the art of mindfulness comes from within. So, you may ask, if it’s free, provides instant results and leaves you feeling calm and content, where’s da catch?
‘Da catch’, my friends, for me and a few others I’ve chatted to, is finding the time. Finding the time in a packed schedule full of meetings and errands and urgent emails, of friends and bars and going for coffee. It’s quite easy to lose ourselves in all that stuff, and even easier to forget to practise being mindful. The paradox is that if only we could make a regular spot for mindfulness in our already overflowing to-do lists, we’d be able to enjoy and handle them even better. So, for those of you who barely have a minute to spare, here’s three quick and simple techniques to instantly inject some mindfulness into your life this week.
1. Breathe – Breathing is great. It keeps us alive (yay!) and also happens to be our very own built in mindfulness tool. Whatever material you read or apps you use, more often than not you’ll be encouraged to focus on your breath at some point during your mindfulness exercise. And there’s a great reason for this. When you focus on a breath, you’re focusing on something that’s happening right now. You’re not focusing on tomorrow’s breath or yesterday’s breath, you are focusing on right now’s breath. Once that breath is gone, your body naturally moves onto the next and the next, a constant flow of new moments to focus on (rather like what being mindful is all about!). The next time you feel your mind running away with itself, or getting so worked up about something that you can barely focus on what you’re doing, take a few moments out (even thirty seconds will make a difference) to breathe deeply, simply experiencing each breath that passes. If it helps, place your hand on your rising and falling stomach. This’ll quite quickly revert you back to the present, ready to tackle things with a clean slate.
2. Take a new route – There’s something quite monotonous about taking the same route to work every morning and trudging that same path each and every day can become a complete drag. We’re not experiencing anything new or exciting and it can be very tempting to simply switch off, listening to music or texting or daydreaming the time away. Should this be a problem for you, consider taking a new route to wherever you might be going. Shaking up your surroundings will encourage you to explore more, and you’ll gain a greater interest in what’s going on around you. Your brain will become reengaged and you’ll leave autopilot mode. I’m lucky in that there are about four or five different routes that I can take to catch my train in the morning if I’m heading out for work, each of which take roughly the same amount of time, so this particular technique takes me no extra time at all; if you’re not in that position, check out my post on being mindful on your way to work.
3. Turn your phone off – There’s a reason switching off technology has a place on almost every list or article on wellbeing, and that’s because it really works. When we look around us, the world is filled with people on their phones. Replying to emails, taking calls, playing Candy Crush. It’d be stupid for me to say ditch the phone all together, as we now live in a world where technology is such an integral part of our lives, but I would encourage you to go for a little while each day without it, only checking it when you actually have something you need to attend to. Instead of browsing a screen when you’re walking from A to B, look up at the sky or buildings. Instead of rushing to take a picture of what you’re experiencing, try actually experiencing it, making a memory instead of an Instagram post. Without the distraction of a phone in your hand you’ll be more likely to give each moment that passes your total focus, being present instead of crushing candy or deciding whether to use Valencia or X-Pro II.