What does mindfulness mean to you? Do you do it? Or are mindfulness exercises something that you’ve never given much thought to?
I definitely used to be in the latter category.
But occasionally, it’s so easy to feel bogged down by everything.
The state of the world is chaotic at times. Plus, most of us are trying to do a million and one different jobs simultaneously.
Work, homeschooling, housework, cooking, cleaning. Too much to do and not enough time.
My lovely friend Leigh, who’s a qualified life coach, once said:
‘Stepping out of our everyday maelstrom will help us to see what’s what.’
And she’s so right.
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Gaining a Clearer Perspective Through Mindfulness
I had a coaching session with Leigh, a few years ago, and we discussed so many things. As my time with her came to a close, my head felt much clearer.
It was like mentally trying to unravel a knotted and tangled ball of string. Initially, I had no idea where even to start.
But throughout the session, everything started to become a little clearer and I could see that making small changes would make a world of difference to my work/life balance.
I promised to be a little kinder to myself — cut myself some slack — and take time out of my working week to occasionally s.t.o.p.
At the time, we were talking specifically about my work/life balance, but during the Corona-Virus outbreak, practising daily mindfulness exercises were more important than ever.
What are Examples of Mindful Activities?
There are so many simple things we can do to keep our mental health strong and healthy:
Take a walk.
Do some exercise.
Read a book.
Paint a picture.
Just putting aside half an hour a couple of times a week will ease the burden and give the brain a break; a little more clarity.
But also, being ‘present’ — even when we’re doing the most mundane jobs — like cleaning, can be turned into an opportunity to be mindful.
Here are some examples of day-to-day activities that can be turned into mindful exercises.
Savour each bite, pay attention to flavours, textures, and sensations while eating, and eat without distractions.
Take a leisurely stroll in nature, paying attention to the sights, sounds, and smells around you.
Yoga or Pilates
Engage in mindful movement, focusing on breath and body awareness during your practice.
Write down your thoughts, emotions, and experiences, fostering self-reflection and awareness.
Fully engage in conversations, concerts, or music by actively listening and giving your complete attention.
Reflect on and appreciate the positive aspects of your life, fostering a sense of gratitude.
Pay attention to the water, temperature, and sensations while showering, fully immersing yourself in the experience.
Engage in activities like calligraphy, painting, drawing, or playing a musical instrument, focusing on the process rather than the outcome.
Engage in household chores with full attention, noticing the sensations, movements, and details involved.
Sometimes we get from A-B on auto-pilot. Practice driving attentively, make sure you’re fully aware of your surroundings and focus on the act of driving itself.
What is a Common Mindfulness Exercise?
Drawing and colouring is one of the most common exercises to promote mindfulness.
Buy an adult colouring book — or get the paints out and go freehand. Colouring and painting can induce the same state as meditation. It allows your mind to focus and, in turn, become less restless.
Colouring can also improve cognitive abilities. Sharpening your focus and attention will ultimately allow for better concentration and increased awareness.
I picked some Forget-Me-Nots a few days ago — put them in a little bottle of water, and popped them on a shelf.
They’re so pretty. Papery thin, sky blue and lilac petals. Some of them are tinged with blush pink or mauve—a golden eye in the centre of each flower, almost like a little star.
I decided to paint them.
I’ll never be a good painter, but I love the process.
So nice to focus the mind and concentrate on the brush strokes. Lovely to watch how the paint merges with the water and settles into the paper.
Mindfulness Exercises for Good Mental Health
Painting is a great way of pushing out unwanted thoughts and giving the mind a little breather.
And as I sat there, concentrating on the little flowers and their spindly stems, I thought about the last few weeks.
The world is in chaos.
But my family and friends are safe and well.
We’ve been self-isolating and not able to get out.
But I’ve been able to spend time with my three favourite people.
I can’t see my family.
Not in person, but we’re lucky enough to live in an age where we can Facetime/Skype/Zoom and see and speak to our loved ones face to face.
Granted — we have no physical contact, but something is better than nothing.
In tumultuous times like these, it’s so easy to catastrophise and spiral off into a vortex of worry and anxiety. But if we remember to take a few minutes out each day to concentrate on something simple to soothe our minds.
Mindfulness exercises and good mental health go hand in hand; let’s make sure we never forget that! Go grab that colouring book!
Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.