The ancient practice of mindfulness has suddenly become popular in modern times, and for very good reason. ‘Stop the world I want to get off’ is an all-too-common cry from those who feel the pressures of living in fast-moving times – and if the last two years haven’t convinced you it’s might be a good idea to take a time-out, then nothing will :0) But balancing the demands of working to pay the bills while not neglecting family and friends, seems to leave little time for ourselves.
Yet as a number of medical studies have proven, just spending a few minutes ‘in the moment’ can deliver real benefits for both your physical and mental health. From lowering the impact of stress, to reducing high blood pressure, and even enhancing immune system function, the simple process of mindfulness is a drug-free and no-cost alternative to conventional interventions. But what if you can’t spare the time to attend mindful sessions, or don’t have the appropriate space to get into the moment? A misconception about practising mindfulness is that it requires a quiet room to sit and be alone. In fact, you can be mindful while walking down a busy high street, sitting on the train, or mowing the lawn. All that it needs to be mindful and in the moment is to focus on the activity in hand. For example, when sitting on a train or bus, be aware of your toes in your shoes and the feel of the floor and seat. Then notice the contact of your clothes on your skin. Add to this the movement of your ribs and the air flowing in and out of your nose while also observing the people around you, and you’ll slip into the ‘here and now’.
When at home, perhaps turn of the TV or radio, and take 10 minutes to sit and look out of the window, or your favourite pot plant while thinking the same thoughts as above. Clear your mind and think of nothing else except your breathing and what you’re looking at. Avoid thoughts of what you need to be doing later to stay in the moment.
When walking, notice the heel to ball-of-foot action, the flexing of ankles, knees and hips, plus the pendulum swing of your lower legs. Relax your shoulders let your arms move freely while taking in your surroundings (vital on a busy street!) and there you go.
Whatever you choose to focus on should not distract you from your activity as this will take you out of the moment. And remember, you’re observing and not concentrating as this narrows your awareness to a single thing – again not compatible to being mindful. And note, you don’t have to try hard – in fact, if you do, it will prevent it. Think of it as similar to drifting off to sleep. You focus on what’s relevant to your situation (while not letting you mind wander to what you’re having for dinner later) and allow the natural process of slipping into a mindfulness state happen.