In these uncertain and ever-changing times, our minds are constantly being challenged and our thoughts and emotions can be scattered. When our mind takes flight we can become engrossed in obsessive thoughts about what is happening now or worrying about the future which makes us feel stressed or anxious.
Mindfulness can help to ground you and give you a feeling of calm and control. Practicing mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, help aid sleep, clear your head and relax in general. Being mindful can help you to enjoy every moment in life as it happens – something you may be finding a little harder with the current challenges we’re facing.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness simply means paying attention and being fully engaged in the present moment without distraction. It’s being aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgement of them or being caught up in them. Mindfulness allows us to not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us.
Why practice mindfulness now?
COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down. Our way of living and routines have completely changed and we’ve had to adapt to a new way of life.
Add to that the worry of what the future will hold, both on the health and economic front, which has led many people to feel overwhelmed. By adding mindfulness to your day, it can help bring you a sense of calm, and be better equipped emotionally to deal with the current situation and carry on with your daily life.
How can you practice mindfulness?
You can develop mindfulness during all the activities of daily living. You can simply focus on the present moment, concentrate on what is happening around you and try not to be judgmental about what you notice – just notice them and let them be.
Incorporating mindfulness practice into your day doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time. Simply taking 5 minutes for self-care each day can do wonders to start you on your mindfulness journey.
Here are some ways you can bring mindfulness to your day:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness mediation is a type of formal mindfulness practice that trains your attention and awareness and achieves a mentally clear and calm state and a healthy sense of perspective. It’s not about trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings, it’s learning to observe them without judgement.
Learning to mediate is a skill that takes practice. If you’ve never done it before it’s helpful to use online tools such as Apps. There are some great mindfulness Apps available such as Calm, Headspace, Smiling Mind and Insight Timer that have lots of different guided meditations you can try. You can also find some guided meditations on YouTube.
2. Breathing Exercises
Doing breathing exercises is another type of formal mindfulness. A quick way to observe your breathing is to take a few minutes in the day to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Cast your wondering thoughts aside, close your eyes and take deep breaths in and out and focus on the air filling and emptying your lungs.
3. Mindful Activities
You can bring mindfulness to everyday activities such as washing the dishes or having a cup of tea. You might usually do these things without thinking too much about it but try paying attention to every step rather than going through the motions. What are the steps you take to make your cup of tea? Take note of the boiling water, putting the tea bag in your mug and pouring the water. Then hold the mug in your hand and feel the warmth. Enjoy and savour every sip and notice the flavour and how it makes you feel.
You can also choose specific activities that help you focus on a task and be present in that moment. For example, colouring in (there are countless stencils available online or colouring books you can order online) or jigsaw puzzles. Completely immerse yourself and be present in these activities.
Take a moment to focus on your body by doing some stretching exercises. Take your time with each stretch, breathe deeply and focus on how your body feels. You can find some easy stretches to try here.
Start a gratitude journal and take a few minutes each day to pause and reflect on what you are grateful for in that moment. This helps you to see and focus on the positives and what you do have, rather than getting caught up in the negatives and what you don’t have. This is particularly useful at the moment where you may be focusing on all the negative impacts of COVID-19 and what you can’t do. You may not have realised some of the positives, such as increased connections with loved ones and more time available to do some things you may have not otherwise had time to do.
6. Mindful Eating
During this time of home isolation you may have found yourself doing a lot of mindless eating. Try bringing some mindfulness to eating by pausing and tuning into your hunger and fullness signals. When eating remove distractions such as your phone and take your time and use all your senses. Smell your food, feel the texture of it in your mouth and appreciate the taste. Chew your food well before swallowing and wait until you take your next bite. Recognise the feeling when you start to feel full. You can do this with your meals and snacks through out the day and notice how being mindful changes how you eat. Read more on mindful eating here.
7. Be patient
Learning to practise mindfulness can take time. Start small and gradually build it up over time. There’s no such thing as perfect mindfulness and you’ll find your mind does still wonder at times and that is okay. The more you practise the better you’ll become at it. You’ll also find some techniques work better than others. If meditation isn’t working for you, try another strategy.
If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed or stressed, see our article on managing stress during this time and if you’re really struggling, reach out for some professional support from your GP or by calling Lifeline (AUS 13 11 14 NZ 0800 543 354).