What is mindfulness, many of you ask? It’s a good question… as for many it may seem an idealistic concept. Mindfulness at its core is, living in the present, It helps develop curiosity, reflection, acceptance and awareness. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for mental health.
Below, we are going to discuss mindfulness and some strategies to help improve our mindfulness, with advice from our expert Nicole Topp. She is a Naturopath who has made anxiety and mental health her special interest areas. Nicole is also self-confessed to be lazy, so she prefers for things to be really simple or she won’t do them – and this works for most of us, I would say!
Let’s face it, if we need a yoga mat, a candle, the right music, and a time frame, it just won’t happen. It’s a matter of fitting things in whenever we can. Good news! We can be trained to get into more of a meditative state in may situations such as stuck in traffic, just when we most need it!
When we’re feeling a little bit impatient and a little bit frustrated, it’s a good time to practice some of these techniques. We all get agitated and impatient in certain situations and there are two choices – be frustrated and annoyed or just choose to say, “Well alright, I’m going use some of my techniques and I’m just going to enjoy this moment that I have to myself in my own head“.
How to create a mindful space
Without looking completely strange, you can create some awareness. You can literally reset the vagus nerve, which moves you out of a stress response, just by deep breathing.
It’s a matter of putting one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and see which hand moves the most. See if only one hand moves or if they both move. Breathing right into your belly can feel uncomfortable and you really have to focus your breath.
If you have never practiced yoga, it can feel quite foreign or even tight in the chest but the goal is to be able to get right into your belly straight away. Eventually you will hit your diaphragm. And soon you’ll be able to get to your belly breath without using your hands and its just about awareness and noticing where it is.
Resetting your vagus nerve in this way is awesome as you you don’t need any tools. There’s no candle required, there’s no yoga mat, there’s no perfect sounds, the stars don’t have to be in a line. You just need to focus on your breath and nobody will even know what you’re doing.
So, being able to do that as consistently as possible and resetting that stress response, can stop that chronic stage and give you more mental clarity. You’ll be able to move through the day a little bit better.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes… and then we actually start belly breathing a little bit more. It will just be habit. It may sound ridiculous but when you practice it it makes a big difference to your day, and all the little annoyances that come with it.
Why visualisation is important
The next tip Nicole shares with us is visualisation. Again, no physical aids required. What would be your ideal situation right now? What would make you feel good now? It can be anything, anywhere, your favourite place, or a completely made up place. Just take note of that might feel like in your mind. Take a few minutes and you can actually almost feel like you’re there!
Imagine how it would feel on your skin? If you’re in a pool and you’re floating around, so the bottom half of you might feel nice and cool but the top part might be a little bit hot from in the sun. Really try to imagine that on your cells and permeating your cells in whatever way shape or form.
The air would be a little bit humid so breathing in could feel a little bit different and you try to imagine all of that. Try to completely immerse yourself in the visual.
Imagine someone is looking after your children and you’re in your favourite spot. Feel you’ve been catapulted into your really special place. Notice all the little things – the ambience, the view around you, the sounds you hear.
You might imagine that you’re at a beach and feel the the sand through your toes or water lapping at your at feet. When you’re ready, take it one step further. If you’re really enjoying your feet in the water, imagine that with every breath in. Let the breathe out through your feet and let the water take it away. You know it’s a proper reset.
Even the relief of doing these things in your mind is scientifically proven to have an impact. Our mind is incredible it can literally do anything, and your brain waves actually mimic these thought patterns.
A guided meditation track can help quieten your mind
Another method that is worth a mention is an actual tracked meditation. Nicole is a big fan of meditation. While she used to think it a little out there or didn’t understand the depths of it at until she practiced it frequently…
“But I didn’t get to where I am now by just sitting in the quiet because my monkey mind would go off tap. There is no way I could just sit in the quiet,” she says.
“I think about all the things I should be doing so using a guided meditation track is really good. I would suggest trying something as simple as insight timer up which is a free app to start with and just get to know what you like, so that you can figure out the best way to move forward.”
Sometimes it’s just gratitude which helps to bring all of the joy back in our lives, that feeling of being able to sink into what you’ve got, being grateful for what you have. This means not always striving for the next thing.
If you really don’t like the idea of a meditation track, a simple body scan will work really well for you. And these are all great for night time. All of these ideas are both mindfulness and sleep strategies, they are one and the same really.
There is a whole of the depth to this. If you choose to explore, you can always dive deeper but for the purposes of this initial focus we are just checking in with where everything held and breathing into the area, that is tense. It really is that simple.
Being present in the one thing or task you’re doing in the moment. Don’t wash the dishes and list all of the things that need to be done. Or you know, think about what you should have done or what you need to do tomorrow. It’s just wash the dishes.
Try to just be present for a minute, because when you’re present there is no tension and frustration. Even carry some gratitude for it. Instead of being frustrated, think how beautiful that you’ve got people around you that can share your home. You’ve got people. You know your home has been shared and it’s been a place of connection and it’s somewhere that you can all call home. How lucky!
So shifting our mindset that little bit by staying present in the job, it actually makes everything feel so much more peaceful. And when it comes down to it, so many of us are just searching for that little bit of peace.
It would be amazing to be able to carry that through the day as consistently as possible, simply. In this day and age we get stuck in the thinking that it must be hard or expensive or I must need a house full of the things.
Can we not just find the simplicity? Get back to the simple stuff. It must have been easier not to drive so hard.
Let’s breathe a little more. Let’s just enjoy each other, including ourselves.
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