by Shamash Alidina, Author of Mindfulness For Dummies
Here are some simple ways of being a tiny bit more mindful in 2011. If you already do them – great! If not, you may like to begin integrating one or more of these tips into your daily routine. Even a small step has an effect, so persevere with them as best you can.
Spend Some Quiet Time Every Day
Having some quiet time every day is the most important tip I can give you. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of connecting with some form of mindfulness practice on a daily basis, preferably for ten minutes or more. By deliberately practising mindfulness every day, you train your mind to be more aware, focused and ultimately more calm, relaxed and efficient. If you want to be more mindful, you need daily training, just as when you want to become fitter you need to exercise your body on a daily basis. If you only exercised once a week, you wouldn’t benefit as much. Your mind goes back to its original state even more quickly than the body.
To practise mindfulness on a daily basis can involve sitting still and feeling the sensation of your breathing, or doing some yoga, or simply sitting out in your garden and looking at the trees and birds with a warm drink before starting work.
Here are some ways to ensure that you remember to be mindful everyday:
- Practise at the same time and place every day. This way the mindfulness discipline becomes a routine like brushing your teeth and you don’t have to think about it.
- Don’t push yourself too much. If ten minutes seems too long, just do whatever you can manage. You can gradually build up the time you practise.
- Put reminders on your mirror, refrigerator, computer or phone. When you see the reminder, do a little meditation.
Try Mindful Walking
Mindful walking is about walking and being mindfully aware of your senses rather than letting your mind wonder into your usual thoughts, worries or concerns.
A few minutes of mindful walking can make you feel calm, refreshed and focused.
To practice mindful walking, try the following steps:
- Decide how long you’re going to practice for. I would suggest 10 minutes to start with, but it’s up to you.
- Choose where to practice. The first time you try it, I would recommend a quiet room at home where you can walk up and down, or somewhere outside where you won’t feel uncomfortable.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Some people like to take their shoes off too.
- Become aware of your body as you stand. Let the knees unlock slightly, and soften any unnecessary tension in the face. Allow the arms to natural hang by your sides. Allow your body to be grounded, like a tree, firmly rooted to the ground with dignity and poise.
- Become aware of your own natural breathing.
- Now feel the sensations in your feet.
- Begin walking slowly and notice how the sensations in your feet change.
- When your mind wonders off into other thoughts, just notice that, and kindly and without criticizing yourself, bring your attention back to your feet.
- Continue to walk in this very slow, mindful way for as long as you wish.
With practice, you can be mindful whenever you walk at normal pace – and you’ll be relaxed, refreshed and in the moment.
Gratitude has been shown scientifically to be a very powerful and uplifting attitude to develop. Gratitude is when you discover how to want what you have, and not want what you don’t have.
You can practise gratitude right now. Think about this blog you are reading – millions of people in the world don’t have a computer, or don’t even have access to basic food, let alone electricity. Consider how lucky you are to be able to read and understand what I’m saying. It’s amazing when you think about it.
Gratitude is an aspect of mindfulness. Mindfulness is an awareness suffused with a warm, kind attitude. To be aware of how fortunate you are to have food available to yourself as you’re cooking is to be mindful.
I practise gratitude when I’m feeling a bit down, because it’s usually a sign that I’m focusing on things that aren’t going well. Just reflecting for a moment and trying to think of five things I’m grateful for helps to put things into perspective.
Here are some ways to nurture feelings of gratitude:
- Wake up with gratitude. Before getting up, spend a minute or two thinking about five things you’re grateful for. They can be very simple things, and you don’t have to feel hugely grateful for them. Just go through each one and you’ll kick start your day. Writing them down is even better.
- Say thank you. This is a simple act but very powerful. Saying thank you is both an act of gratitude and kindness – you’re making clear to the other person that you’ve recognised her generosity.
- Carry out an action to say thanks. Send a ‘thank you’ card, a small gift or do something like making a coffee or helping someone out with her work. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.
- Try being grateful for things you wouldn’t normally. For example, when things are difficult, you can be grateful for the challenge the difficulty offers. Be grateful for your ability to hear for example. Or try being grateful for being alive in the first place – perhaps this is the greatest miracle.
Mindfulness for Dummies (signed copy available at Watkins) by Shamash Alidina is a practical guide covers the key self–control techniques designed to help you achieve a more focused and contented state of mind, while maximizing the health benefits of mindfulness