If you’re anything like me, you have started the year with an overwhelming sense that time is slipping through your fingers. Another year has flown by and we are already making our way into 2015, crazy hey? Just last week I was soaking up the sun on the beach at Stradbroke Island and all-too-soon I am back at my desk and juggling the demands of the working week. Sound familiar? Stressing about time is common in our busy lives – our minds are constantly bouncing from thought to thought, preparing for the future and reliving the past. I came to the realisation that I want to slow things down and find more ability to live in the ‘now’.
I sought the advice of psychotherapist, yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher Alison Keane, who explained the Buddhist teaching of ‘mindfulness’ as an intentional way of paying attention to what we are doing, as we are doing it. This simple practice can be used to regain control of your mind and change the way your brain works for the better. For example, when we are worried or stressed the neural pathways in our brain are dense and active. Through mindfulness we can achieve ‘conscious synaptic pruning’ which is when our brain learns to use other neural networks which are more reality based or in the present moment.
Alison explains that as a young girl she was very shy and used to struggle with public speaking. By incorporating mindfulness as a part of her everyday life, she has been able to deal with her anxiety and stress. Mindfulness has also been linked to enhancing concentration and focus, as well as improving physical health and relationships.
Here are five simple ways to be more mindful in everyday life:
1. Practice mindfulness during routine activities
Find one routine activity in your day, whether it is eating a meal, brushing your teeth or walking to the bus stop, and try to be really present in the moment. Pay attention to the sight, smell, taste and feel of the activity – you might find this activity that you would usually do on autopilot more interesting than you thought!
2. Practice mindfulness when you wake up
The mind is at its most naturally relaxed state when you wake up, making this a logical time to practice being mindful. It also helps set the ‘tone’ of your nervous system for the rest of the day.
3. Learn to meditate
The best way to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life is to train your brain through meditation. Similar to riding a bike or learning a new language, learning to be mindful takes practice – the more often you meditate, the more easily your brain will be able to tap into mindful cognitive processes. If you’re new to meditation, there are a range of apps such as Omvana or Headspace, which are great to get your started.
4. Allow your mind to wander
It is important to know that being mindful doesn’t mean forbidding your mind to wander. Instead, acknowledge that your mind is wandering, and non-judgementally, bring it back to the present moment.
5. Take a moment
Find a moment in the day, especially if you feel yourself getting stressed, to stop and take a minute to breathe in and out. Spend a few seconds thinking about your breathing and then proceed with what you were doing – this will make you more calm and quieten your mind.