Many people find mindfulness a hugely helpful practice. Whether it’s the meditation itself, the calming or counting of breath, taking time out for themselves or simply a way of getting out of their heads. Whatever reason you practice mindfulness, if it works for you it probably will be hugely helpful now more than ever.
Mindfulness for Everyone?
For each person who loves mindfulness, and may slightly over enthuse about it, there are many who find it is simply not for them. When I first heard about mindfulness I didn’t give it much thought. I’m a natural fidgeter and overthinker. I can’t sit still for more than a few seconds and I find it near impossible to turn off my brain. It’s like all my thoughts lie in wait until I’m unoccupied. And *bam* they all come flooding in; normally when I’m desperately trying to get some sleep!
This is something I’ve heard from other people – it’s not just me – promise! I run workshops and discussion groups on mental health and invariably when we talk about self-care, mindfulness will be thrown into the mix. Any reason why people don’t find mindfulness helpful or something for them are, of course, valid. We just need to make sure that when we say mindfulness we know what we mean.
For me, mindfulness conjured images of sitting crossed legged on the floor. Humming or chanting under my breath and breathing deeply for long periods of time. This is part of mindfulness. It’s the meditation part and it can be hugely helpful and soothing to people. If you’ve not tried it before, or finally feel like you have the time to do so, I’d encourage it. Of course, it’s always important that if you’re attending a class (possibly virtually) to do so with a mindfulness practitioner who has the necessary qualifications. But there’s also great apps like Calm and Headspace and many others who are also offering great discounts and extra free resources during the current virus.
This is part of the mindfulness picture; but it’s not all of it. Mindfulness at root is about being in the moment. It’s about being in the world around us. Acknowledging what we feel and what we think. Experiencing the world around us through all of our five senses. You don’t need to sit in any particular posture, or sit at all. It’s not necessary to be still. You can be walking at a slow pace or swaying or whatever is good for you. There’s no need to chant, unless you want to.
As per a previous post on breathing, many of you will know I’m an advocate of the 7-11 breathing exercise. This is purely a personal choice that I find soothing but there are many kinds out there. I find it the most accessible and memorable but find what works for you. A key thing to focus on is a longer out breath and a shorter in breath. Breathing from our diaphragm and stomach rather than our chests. Imagine a balloon inflating as you breathe in, your stomach should expand outwards. As the balloon deflates and you breathe out, your stomach moves back inwards. If it’s helpful you can rest your hands on your stomach to feel the breath in action.
Mindfulness During Covid-19
The benefits of mindfulness, including helping calm and relax us and
possibly distract us and get us out of our heads will be more important than
ever right now. Many of us are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety which is normal but can be hard to manage (here are my thoughts on reframing anxiety during coronavirus). It may be time to give some form of mindfulness a try. You can even do it with those you live with, including your kids.
But it doesn’t have to be all about the breath. You can be mindful whilst
you go for a walk – if it is safe for you to do so. To look after my own mental
health during Covid-19 I’ve been going for a walk around the lake in my local park. I’ve been leaving my phone at home to do so. It’s allowed me to really appreciate the short time I’m out the house and in nature. I’m able to be more mindful just by seeing the world around me and being a part of it. Instead of wrapped up in my own head or looking down at my phone.
You can also be mindful doing various different activities. Being creative
is a great way of doing self-care and I know lots of people are taking this
time to re-invest in themselves and creativity. Mindfulness colouring is a
trend for a reason. Anything creative, whether colouring, an art project,
writing, calligraphy, music or even de-cluttering or having a tidy-up can be
mindful. Likewise with baking, crosswords or various puzzles
Finding Your Flow
For myself, I look for activities which get me out of my head an in a state
of flow. A state of flow means becoming fully absorbed in the enjoyment and focus of an activity that you forget about everything else. These are the
activities which truly get me out of my head and I always feel better after doing them. I call them activities where I lose time. I sit down intending on doing something for a few minutes and completely forget where I am. When I next look at the clock it can easily have been an hour or more.
Some of us have more time on our hands because we’re at home more right now. Most of us will need to keep an eye on possibly rising stress levels. And we all need to keep a watchful eye on our mental health. Perhaps now is the time to try something mindful or even try and find your flow!
I’d love to hear how you find your flow or what you do mindfully? Did you enjoy it and did it help? Let me know below!