One of my 2017 goals was to try and make a more conscious effort to unwind and detach from the outside world for a small part of everyday. For me, someone who works every hour of the day, I find it hard to switch off and as mentioned before, I often can feel overwhelmed by the stress of always being so wired and can get quite anxious as a result.Mindfulness and its benefits are becoming better known, widespread and respected in today’s society, and i am so happy it’s a routine I’ve incorporated into my everyday life.
So, what is mindfulness?
To me, mindfulness is being present in the moment, being aware of my thoughts and feelings in a none-judgmental way, and also being grateful for here and now. This is something I think a lot of us struggle with. We struggle to detach from the fast moving world around us, and can get quite caught up in observing everyone else, being our own worst critics and enemies and this in turn leads to these feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress so many of us suffer from.
Trying to be more mindful is making me more aware of what is happening around me and forces me to consciously reflect, which has resulted in the development of a more level-headed and tolerant nature and reduced stress levels. I’m not saying there won’t be days when you may feel overwhelmed, anxious or stress, but there are steps you can take daily to help you become more mindful and present in everyday life. They have worked wonders for me.
Yoga was kind of one of those things that caught me totally by surprise. I was shocked when I realized that even after years of lifting weights and running and playing tennis, my unnatural attempts at downward-facing dog left my arms shaking after a few breaths. But not only has yoga helped me to loosen out (I can now touch my toes, my whole life I’ve let myself believe I’d never be able to touch my toes because my arms are shorter than my legs LOL), the hour and a half class is the best spent 90 minutes of my week. In those 90 minutes, I completely disconnect leaving world outside, focusing only on myself and my breathing, clearing my thoughts, bettering my agility and flexibility, and getting lost in the peaceful and tranquil settings that the class is taught in.
Even just achieving the certain looseness and freeness that comes from practising yoga in your entire body, it helps ease any feelings of stress and anxiety, and completely allows you to unwind.
The below 3 tie in together. Every night since January, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to be in bed 30 minutes before I plan to go to sleep. I turn my phone on airplane mode and make sure to switch it off until the morning. And I do the following 3 things:
Meditation can fit into any lifestyle, I promise. This is one I’ve really only started in the past 2-3 weeks. I know friends who have mastered it. I’m still trying. I personally do 5-10 minutes of self-guided meditation a day. There are YouTube videos that you can throw on that will help you along. I sit on my bed, and listen to these at least 1-2 times a week before bed. During this time I try to keep my focus on only my breathing and switch off from all the thoughts whizzing around my head. This is a huge challenge as my mind often wanders off… and when this happens, I just bring it back to my breathing. This can be frustrating at first as your mind refuses to focus, but I am determined to stick with it and have been assured it gets easier with time.
An amazing way to be more mindful is to reflect at the end of every day. This literally takes a minute, so no excuses! I personally like to reflect on three positive things from the day and one way I could improve. For the positive elements, I like to think of big moments such as a new business ideas, as well as small ones such as a nice interaction with a stranger. In terms of the improvements, I like to base these on my personal behaviour. For example, I may reflect on the fact that I felt angry or frustrated about something that I have no control over. An improvement would be to realize that there is no need to waste my energy on something which I cannot change. These reflections can be shared with a close friend or partner, or even just with yourself in a written journal.
Nowadays, we spend a huge chunk of our lives looking at screens – whether that’s phones, laptops, TV’s or tablets. We are spending less and less time interacting with people face to face and more and more time doing so virtually. Even when we are with people, we can’t take our eyes off our phones as we are bombarded with notifications and updates, and as a result our connections with people are suffering.
This is why my phone goes on Airplane mode. I try and spend time away from Social Media and my phone, and focus on unwinding before I go to sleep. I take out my book, and aim to read for 20-30 minutes, and at that stage I’m naturally falling asleep.
My favourites are ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Burn, ‘Flourishing’ by Maureen Gaffrey, and ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k’ by Sarah Knight. I am currently reading ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts for the second time.
Completely disconnecting doesn’t have to be solely done before bed though, the beauty of reading is that it can be done in any social setting, whether you’re on the bus home from work, lazing on a rainy Saturday afternoon or in a coffee shop just passing time. Turn off your phone, and get lost in the pages of the book before you.
Also in previous few weeks, I have tried to make a more conscious effort to disconnect whenever I am with others. By turning my phone off or on silent and be present in their company. We spend so much time in our virtual worlds, that nowadays we are actually spending less and less time with actual people. Disconnecting and being present in the moment is also a true sign of respect for them and what they have to say.
Let me know if you have any more ways of achieving mindfulness.