Does it always seem like the busier you are, the less in control you feel? It’s easy to get lost in the mundane of everyday life, be it at work or at home. We are all guilty of being a mindless zombie, trudging through life searching for brains but what happens when you finally find one? Do you scoff it down so fast it barely touches the sides? Do you eat it without thinking about it is you’re actually eating in the first place. Now take out the analogy because it’s slightly gross and apply it to something slightly healthier and more appetising, like your daily bowl of cereal. Do you still scoff it down mindlessly? Do you eat your breakfast on autopilot every morning? Think about it, you had oats today but what did you have yesterday, or the day before or even last week? Living life on autopilot might seem like an effective way to get things done but where is the fun in that? Trying to do too much means we miss out on the beauty of every day.
It’s understandable that if you’re leading a hectic lifestyle, keeping things simple is the easy option but self care is just as important. The idea of self care is to make time for yourself. The simplest way to do so is to just pause. Take a break from the madness and stop. Stop the task you’re doing. Sit or stand where you are and think – not about work or the task you were doing but the spoon in your hand, the sound outside the window, the taste of your cereal, really think about it.
It sounds easy doesn’t it. Just stop and think about your spoon, it’s not a hard task. Stopping what you are doing and thinking in the moment, not the past or future but the present, this very moment but did you try it? As a teacher (and a new mum) I know all too well just how difficult it is to switch off. It’s not a 9-5 kind of job where home is the work free sanctuary. Home becomes an extension of work with half your marking piled up on the dinner table most evenings. You want to switch off but don’t want to become a hemp wearing, vege munching hippy (we love you really!). Mindfulness is an incredible tool that can allow you to switch off from work, from those mundane tasks, from whatever it is causing an imbalance in your life. Using mindfulness to take a break, a brief and intentional pause from your own thoughts can enable you to stop and reset, reconnect with your mind, body and surroundings.
How do I let go and be in the moment?
At school I use one simple thing. The chocolate button. The kids love it because they get a treat, the teacher because the whole class is quite for 2 minutes and you’ll love it because it’s being naughty whilst being good to yourself.
Follow my 5 step plan to help you become mindful.
First things first, disconnect yourself. Turn off all electronic devices. We don’t want to be interrupted. Make sure you have some chocolate buttons in reach. Get a yoga mat, blanket or cushion. We want to be comfortable. Make sure you read ahead before you begin and just remember that we are all human, if your mind wanders don’t beat yourself up about it. Just refocus and move forwards.
Step 1: Make sure you are sitting comfortably with your eyes closed. Listen to the sounds around you. What can you hear? The fridge whirring? The neighbours getting ready for work or the birds outside chirping? Shut that out! That is a distraction that will lead your thoughts astray. Instead focus on your breathing . Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Step 2: Once you’ve refocused your mind, take a single chocolate button (only one is needed, this is not an exercise in eating chocolate!). Place the button on your tongue. Let it rest there. Don’t swallow it. Think in this moment only. Think about the chocolate, the texture of it, the taste. It’s melting. You’re salivating, it’s yummy. (If your mind wanders or you ‘accidentally’ eat the button, just get another and bring it back to the moment by focusing back on the breathes).
Step 3: The chocolate is almost gone. Don’t rush to finish it, savour it. The velvety chocolate resting on your tongue as it slowly disappears. Once it’s gone, don’t open your eyes, remain in the moment. Focus on the feeling in this moment. The euphoria of now. Let the moment wash over you. Let the corners of your mouth stretch into a smile.
Step 4: Refocus back to your b
reathing. Taking deep breaths.
Inhale … 2 … 3 … 4 …
Exhale… 2 … 3 … 4 …
In … 2 … 3 … 4 …
Out … 2 … 3 … 4 …
Step 5: Open your eyes. Continue to focus on your breathing before you get moving again. Stand up, stretch it out. You’ve just completed your first mindfulness exercise. How did it feel? Now is your time to reflect. Not on life but on the feeling inside. Do you feel ready to face the day? Alive and kicking? Good! Enjoy it.
You can use other foods such as a raisin or other dried fruit. Something that won’t disappear too easily but that will still excite the taste buds and awaken the sense. Try adding this to you daily routine and see the difference it makes. This is one of many mindfulness exercise that can help you you take back NOW, to refocus your mind on the moment and prepare for the day ahead.
Other exercises to try:
Walking: this is a great source of low impact exercise that can invigorate the body and the mind. The fresh air and the sunshine on your face helps to refocus your thoughts.
Making tea/coffee: the step by step process may seem like a mundane task but you focus on what you are doing in each step. You can be in each moment and you get to enjoy a cuppa.
This may seem like the opposite of what you need to do to refocus your mind but it is about taking time out and enjoying a bit of self care. Reflect on what you are reading and switch off from work and life.
Meditation: mindfulness is rooted in meditation. If you need that time to come back to the moment, to de-stress, you can take 5 where ever you are. Just find a quite spot and enjoy a moments peace.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. It’s really cheap as there are a lot of free apps available. They will guide you through each session and some even provide music to meditate to. Applying mindfulness to your everyday can bring about positive changes to your mental well-being and it’s so easy to get started.
I hope you like my little intro to mindfulness. As I said, there are so many great apps and guides out there so get looking and get trying. If you do try the chocolate button exercise drop me a comment and let me know how you get on.