We all know that mindfulness is a great tool to calm that awful mind chatter, improve concentration, focus, manage anxiety and help reduce stress. Research has shown that mindfulness influences parts of the brain that are directly related to emotional regulation and relaxation.
As mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular, there are more and more fantastic apps, resources, books and online material popping up encouraging and teaching people to practice mindfulness.
Like me, many of my clients describe difficulty practising mindfulness as they find it difficult to simply sit still. Rather than giving up and saying “mindfulness isn’t for me”, there are other active ways that you can practice it.
Put on your runners and head outside. Anywhere will do. While you’re walking, try to engage all senses as best as possible. If you close your eyes, what can you hear? What can you smell? Feel? Pay attention to your breath – as your walking do you notice your breath quicken? Try to keep yourself grounded and focused in the present. Feel the pressure of your feet as it makes contact with the pavement. Notice the process of putting one foot infront of the other. If you feel your mind wandering, gently bring it back to walking.
Another activity is if you head to a park or grassed area, and take your shoes off. Repeat the same activity as above but try to feel the grass beneath your feet, between your toes. Does it feel different walking on the grass than it does on the pavement?
What was everyone’s favourite activity as a kid? Colouring! Maybe there was something to that activity we all loved to do as children. Grab a colouring book and some pencils and start colouring. Stare at the page and focus on your breath. Notice how it feels. Where does your breath start and stop? How quickly are you breathing? Pay attention to the scratching of the pencil on the paper. Can you smell the pencils? Focus on the pattern infront of you. Try as best as you can to eliminate all judgement. You don’t need to keep within the lines. You don’t have to colour things as you think they “should” be coloured. Engage fully in the process of colouring and enjoy.
Let’s face it, not many people enjoy cleaning. However, it is an opportunity to practise your mindfulness skills! If you find it difficult to sit still, attempt to bring a mindful attitude to your chore list. Whether it be vacuuming, doing laundry or washing dishes, pay attention to how it feels as you’re completing the task. When you notice your thoughts wandering, actively bring your attention back to the present.
As I mentioned above, a key part of mindfulness is engaging as many of the senses as you can. Music itself is therapeutic in nature, so let’s look at how you can apply mindfulness to music. Put on your favourite song and really listen to it. Pay attention to the sounds underneath the lyrics – the background noise you might not usually pay attention to. Notice the vocals, the beats and the instruments. How do they change throughout the song? Play the song again and see if there are any differences from how you would regularly hear it.
Lastly, mindfulness is often a difficult technique to practice and master. The more you set aside time to consciously engage in the activity, the easier it will become. If you find it difficult to sit still please give some of the activities above a try and see what that experience is like for you. Mindfulness is adaptable and can be applied to almost any activity. Anything can become an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Try some of the activities above or come up with your own active mindfulness ideas. Find whatever works for you!
Comment below on your experience with mindfulness and share with others what helps you!