Being mindful, even if your mind is full

Mindfulness refers to maintaining awareness and being in the moment. Maybe we are preoccupied with what happened yesterday, a few hours ago, or worried about what may happen tomorrow. All too often, our monkey-mind causes us to wander in multiple directions and forget to live in the moment. The practice of mindfulness encourages us to take note of these thoughts and then gently bring ourselves back into ‘the now’. Here is the 101 on how to mindfully recover after a stressful day or week. Whether you’re at work, eating a meal or out in nature, it’s important to have a brief life pause. Here’s why…

Eating on autopilot is never a good idea, yet many of us eat on the run, eat in front of the TV or eat while we are tinkering around on our phones. Mindfulness isn’t restricted to yoga practices; mindfulness has the potential to breach into all activities of daily living, including eating. It’s the practice of mindfulness that will allow you to break-free from habitual patterns and induce a positive lifestyle change.

Here are some simple tips that can help introduce you to the practice of mindful eating:

  • Pause and reflect: take a few moments to notice the aroma, visual appeal and texture of your food; savour these various sensations.
  • Sit down: eating on the run disrupts the physical process of digestion; you will be more likely to appreciate the food when you’re sitting.
  • Serve out your portions: you may be inclined to eat less if it doesn’t come from straight out of the bag!
  • Chew 25-30 times: this will help you to enjoy the flavours of your food, and allow enough time for satiety signals to be sent back to the brain to avoid over-eating.
  • Give gratitude: pause to acknowledge the labour that went into providing your meal—from farm, to cooking, to the table. Give thanks to the farmers, the animals, the chef and the companions at your table.

Being mindful throughout the day

It’s time to start your day off right. When you first wake up, thinking about your overwhelming, never ending ‘to do’ list will trigger the stress response in your body. Your stress hormones, mainly cortisol, will increase sharply, triggering your fight or flight instinct. Instead of waking up in a peaceful state of mind, you already feel scattered and unorganised. To top it off, you skip breakfast and order an extra-large coffee on the way to work, further driving up stress hormones. Sound like a familiar story?

Try this instead: when you first wake up, don’t jump straight out of bed. Take just two short minutes to notice your breath, and when busy thoughts enter your mind, notice them, and let them go, and refocus your attention on your breath. When you get to work, write down your daily to do list on paper. Get outside at lunch and go for a walk. Enjoy nature; find a peaceful place to take another two minutes to focus on your breath.

Other helpful tips to maintain mindfulness throughout the day include:

  • Setting your phone timer to ring every hour; a reminder for you to take a two minute break and prevent going into action addiction;
  • get up and move around every half hour, even if it’s quick stretch; and
  • if all else fails, practice mindful observation by focusing on an object for a moment or two; don’t do anything but notice the object for as long as your concentration allows; it can be anything from your cup of tea to a tree branch lurking outside your office window (if you’re lucky enough to have a window!).

The practice of mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. Rather, it’s about improving focus and concentration in all aspects of life, whether it’s work or physical activity. Mindfulness is about stripping away external distractions and being present in the moment. Check in with yourself throughout the day and take note of how you feel—the more you practice mindfulness, the increased likelihood it will become your default way of being.

To learn more about mindfulness book a consultation with our Mindfulness Trainer, Judith Lissing. Call Elevate on (02) 9252 2226. 

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