Anyone and everyone can bring mindfulness to their life. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t a particular activity; it is not something else to fit into your busy schedule. It is more useful to think of mindfulness as the lens you look through, while you go about your life. Here are a few of Mindfulness Liverpool’s top tips for bringing mindfulness into your life right away.
1. Grab ‘me time’ in bite-sized chunks
Take five minutes or even five breaths here and there, to do nothing. Have the intention to just breathe, just sit, just stroll or just be. Even if you’re a busy parent or boss you can fit this in. Why bother? Well, even just a few moments taking a step back from our normal busyness can help our parasympathetic nervous system balance out the stress-based ‘fight or flight’ response that kicks in and narrows our attention when we’re pushing ourselves. That narrowing of attention can be useful sometimes, but it also narrows out creative and lateral thinking and keeps your body pumped with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
2. Do one activity a day in a mindful way
This is a classic mindfulness practice and it’s all part of this ‘mindfulness as a way of being’ idea. It’s great to sit, pause and meditate but we can also practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere (I’m currently experimenting with ‘mindful typing’!). All we need to do is have the intention to become aware of what’s happening in our experience, in that moment, with acceptance and without judgement. Particularly, include some of your sensory experience into your conscious awareness – so as you read this, notice your breath, the sounds you can hear in your environment or your feet on the floor. This combination of including our sensory awareness and noticing how we are without judgement can help us drop into that elusive ‘now’.
3. Take in the good
Our brains have what psychologists call a ‘negativity bias’. It is actually a really useful thing, and it’s part of our wiring, because it’s kept us safe throughout the whole of human evolution; it’s the instinct that enables us to recognise and notice potential dangers. But it also keeps us in a very particular mode of functioning; stressed and serious. These days we don’t need to spend quite as much time as we do focusing on potential dangers as we did in prehistory! So have a go at reclaiming some pleasant experiences and rewiring your brain. As you’re going about your day, notice anything pleasant. The feeling of connection or satisfaction when you have a nice moment with a colleague or friend. The warmth of your cup of tea on a cold day. The taste sensation of a good chocolate bar! Stay with the pleasant aspects of your experience for longer than you normally would. In other words, choose to hold those sensations in your conscious awareness, just for a few seconds. It’s fun and it’s good for you!
4. Give yourself a break…
I know that we already talked about taking a break. But that was taking a break, this is giving yourself a break – as in, not being quite so hard on ourselves. Sure, we want to change, learn, grow and improve, but maybe we can trust ourselves to do that without having to beat ourselves up in the process. The research on this topic is stacking up and what it says, as paradoxical and uncomfortable as it may sound, is that bringing kindness, acceptance and friendliness towards ourselves actually improves our performance AND our well-being. Basically, it means that we’re free to channel all that extra energy we spent criticising ourselves into exploring new, innovative and creative responses to whatever’s in front of us. Take a risk, give yourself a break.
5. Advocate for yourself!
A.k.a: listen to your intuition and do what’s right for you. Have you ever said yes to something that you knew was a terrible idea? Then realised only hours later that you knew it was a terrible idea and wondered why you didn’t say something at the time? Many of us go through life ignoring the intuitive voice inside of us that usually knows, in real time, the best decision to make. Taking a moment to check in with this inner wisdom before making a decision is mindfulness in action and it could change your life!