Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Simple Tips for Everyday Mindfulness

I took up yoga at 21 as an antidote to the stressful, frenetic life I was living in London. It was an hour of calm in a storm of deadlines and rattling insecurities, this was something I could control and enjoy at my own pace - no-one was judging me or making demands of me, but my own body.

15 years on and I'm still practicing most days, and my asanas are still frustratingly hard, but I still enjoy the relaxing calm that descends after an hour of good practice. I have discovered a wonderful teacher who approaches the classes with a sense of humour and an enjoyment that radiates throughout the class. [Nicola Harpin - http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1503780282]. Thank goodness, as it was a long search after leaving London to find a teacher that worked for me.

After Noah was born my yoga took on an entirely different meaning - like an anchor rooting me back to myself when I felt lost in nappies and sleepless nights. And now Noah is growing up I'm discovering all new lessons again in my practice.

Yesterday, after an invigorating class I sat down to read Yoga Journal and was struck by an article by Maggie Lyon Varadhan on svaha [http://lyonlifestyle.com/yoga-journal-october-2011/]. She wrote about recognising the significance of every moment, no matter how small, which really resonated with how I'm feeling at the moment. Again my life seems quite frenetic and demanding, but for entirely different reasons, and too easily my mind and focus is elsewhere. The computer is switched on, the texts are ringing through, and the radio hums in the background.
I know women are meant to be good at multi-tasking, but I also think women can suffer from the urge to cram too much into a day out of guilt and a sense of duty and responsibility. All well and good, but this often leads to us juggling the demands of everyone else above ourselves.

So I thought it would be nice to list some simple, practical ways to be more present and mindful everyday, which can help to relieve stress and anxiety. It is mostly a reminder to myself that every moment is precious and I need to remind myself of this everyday.
  1. Learn to meditate - begin with a few minutes of deep breathing in a quiet spot, listen to the sound of your own breathing and try to still the thoughts in your head.
  2. At moments of stress or tension - stop and take 5 deep meaningful breaths.
  3. Resist the temptation to over-commit, this means learning to say no - a difficult one, but much better to do a few things well than too many things badly, and while ever you have too many things to think about your focus will wander too easily.
  4. Switch devices off when spending time with family, this means when playing with kids if you are a parent or when you come home from work with your partner. Mindfulness is about focusing on the moment and not being distracted - phones, iPads and laptops on the main distraction in our hectic modern world.
  5. Try to limit internet or surfing time to specific periods, when the kids are being entertained elsewhere or after bedtime, and be strict about the time frame. We are more productive if we are working in a focused way within a limited period.
  6. Concentrate fully on the task in hand, whether that is baking a cake, writing an email, or eating dinner, avoid multi-tasking.
  7. This is a good one, and one that is so easily forgotten: when speaking with someone, could be your child, partner, or work colleague look directly at them and don't busy yourself with doing other things at the same time. I know this sounds pretty common sense right? But too often I find myself doing several things whilst having a conversation instead of really listening.
  8. Mindfulness should reach every part of our lives including what we eat. I am guilty of not eating mindfully but just grabbing whatever is quick convenient, and in my case, usually a quick sugar fix. I always regret these rushed decisions, rather than taking a moment more to think better about my choice.
  9. Being present is not just about good habits but about also bad habits which are mostly done unconsciously in moments of stress, or anxiety. This can be eating as I mentioned before, or in my case picking my finger nails [the most awful habit!!]. Being more conscious in the everyday can help to change those bad habits.
  10. Write lists of all the things that are cluttering our brains - our blackboard is a brilliant place for keeping the day to day jobs - and there is nothing more satisfying at the end of the day than to literally wipe the board clean ready for the next day.

Do you have any of your own thoughts on mindfulness? I'd love to hear them, and hope these small suggestions might give you something to think about.

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