So I’m a week into my ‘Mindful In May’ challenge and as part of this I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes each day and trying to do a daily activity mindfully (e.g. showering or brushing my teeth).
And it’s bloody hard! Finding the time to fit it in has been surprisingly tricky, not to mention falling asleep mid-way through the guided meditation or finding I’m mentally reviewing my to-do list instead of focusing on the sensations in my left big toe.
So what is this whole mindfulness thing about? You may have noticed the word popping up more in recent years and it has become a very hot topic in psychology. Put simply mindfulness is mental attention training – practicing noticing what you’re doing in the here-and-now with openness, curiosity and without judgment.
And the science is telling us that if we practice mindfulness we’ll be on to a good thing. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress, boost memory, improve focus, decrease emotional reactivity, improve cognitive flexibility and self-awareness, bolster the immune system, and it’s associated with relationship satisfaction and more engagement in life.
Sounds pretty good hey? For me, I’m already seeing the benefits – I’m far from having inner peace but I have noticed feeling calmer and being less reactive when life has gotten hectic.
Keen to try a little mindfulness? Here are some tips to get started:
- Download a mindfulness meditation app – it’s easier to follow along guided instructions if you’re a beginner (click here see for a review of the 10 best mindfulness apps in 2013).
- Tune into your breath – at any time in the day take a minute to simply notice your breath; put your hands on your belly and observe the sensations as you inhale and exhale or notice the flow of air in and out of your nostrils.
- You can do anything mindfully – pick something you typically do quite mindlessly and see if you can bring present moment experience to it using your five senses (e.g. brushing your teeth, washing up, showering, making a cup of tea).
- The more time you give it the better – start with 5 or 10 minutes a day and build up.
- The hardest part is making time for it – set a time the day before or link it to a daily activity to help you remember.
- Avoid trying to do it last thing before bed – the aim is to be alert not asleep!