Mindful May, 10 days, 10 tips

1: Pausing to become present.

Most of us are not present to where our life is actually taking place because we are so often in the past or future.  

Tip one:   Learn to pause.   

Learning to take a pause in the midst of life brings you back to what is actually happening, what you are thinking and what you are feeling in the moment.   When someone upsets you instead of reacting immediately be mindful of taking a pause.   A pause to take a slow deep breath and find the space for more clarity, understanding and empathy.   Then reply in a more balanced, calm and empowered way.

You can be present with a pause no matter what is happening around you. 

From chaos to calm with a simple pause.     Use the pause and use them often.

2: Relaxing

When you relax the body, the mind follows.     Our lives are full of stress and anxiety which trigger the fight, flight or freeze reflex.   Stress is a natural part of life and the first skill in managing it is awareness.    

Tip two:                Relaxing

Relaxing is not another doing thing, rather an undoing.

Using the breath take a deep breath in and with a slow outbreath become aware of any tension in your body.  How are you feeling at this very moment?     Notice your body, unhinge your jaw and soften the tongue.   Soften the eyes to smooth and relax your brow.   Visualise your shoulders covered in thick ice that feels heavy and rigid.  Now consciously drop and relax your shoulders and visualise the ice cracking and starting to melt, freeing you from tension as the water melts and drops away.   Your shoulders are less hunched opening your chest area allowing you to lead from your heart.    

Throughout the day become present to how your body feels and relax.

3: Lost in the future

Are you lost in the future?   Waiting to arrive somewhere else, focussing on what next, another task or what needs to be done later? We miss so much of our life when we focus on the future.  

Tip 3:     Awareness

It can be hard to remain mindful when its day to day chores, routine jobs we don’t necessarily like and could do with our eyes shut.     However, when you invite your awareness to see, feel and hear all that is happening in the very moment you harness the experience.  Awareness is noticing the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, your feet on the ground and your connection to earth.   Being aware is the difference from just hearing birds to actually tuning in and becoming mindful of all the different bird calls you hear, each chirp, tweet and songs      

Don’t get lost in the future, be mindfully aware regardless of the task.

4: Friendliness

Are you kinder and more forgiving of your friends than yourself?    What is your attitude of yourself?

Tip 4:     Friendliness

I want you to be friends with yourself.  Extend the same patience, forgiveness and warmth to yourself as you would a friend.   Be mindful of your internal critic… I’ve messed up, she is prettier, I shouldn’t have done that.    We all have feelings of imperfection.  Being mindful is when we focus on the present, witness what is happening around us and then practice ways of being kinder and friendlier to ourselves instead of judging.  

When we are mindful of being nice to our self, we become our own best friend. 

5: Breath

The most universal mindfulness practice is working with the breath.    Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life.  

Tip 5:    The breath

For those of us who’ve given birth you understand the importance of breath work, musicians and singers use their breath to improve their performance, the pause for a breath during a great speech has power.    Becoming aware of your breath, conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation.   Breathing deeply brings your mind home to your body.

Notice when you are stressed or anxious how shallow and fast your breath is.   Take a few moments every day to focus on your breath.   Breathe slowly and think ‘rising’ with the in breath and falling with the out breath.    I visualise the in breath gently rising to my third eye which is centre of the head at brow level.      Easing the breath to its natural rhythms slows the heartbeat and our mind becomes less scattered.     Conscious breath is not controlling the breath but an awareness of it.   When you put your focus on your breath you take the focus away from anger, frustration and by doing so you allow space to just be.     

Breathing in, I calm body and mind.   Breathing out, I smile.   Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.

6: Mindful Eating 

Ever found yourself on the couch watching TV with a bar of chocolate or packet of chips and before you realise you’ve eaten the lot?  Or having lunch at your desk, you’re so focussed on the screen you can’t remember eating it, but it’s finished? 

Tip 6:  Savour the moment.  

Let’s talk about mindful eating as opposed to the unhealthy “mindless” eating that we do when we are bored or emotional eating.      Mindful eating isn’t about being perfect, always eating the right things, rather, it’s about focusing all your senses and being present as you eat your food.

Instead of just chomping and swallowing your food, pay attention to how you feel as you eat—the texture and tastes of each mouthful, your body’s hunger and fullness signals, how different foods affect your energy and mood—you can learn to savour both your food and the experience of eating.

Being mindful of the food you eat and  taking time away from your busy schedule to enjoy the experience, you slow down and take a break from the hustle and bustle of your day, easing stress and anxiety.     Not to mention your improved digestion by eating slower.

7: Who is in the shower with you?

Do you shower on autopilot?   Is your mind on work, colleagues, kids, shopping, schooling, family members?    Just how many people do you have in the shower with you?

Tip 7     

Your morning routine is a great way to set your intention for the rest of the day.   In the shower pay attention to the warm water and how wonderful it feels as it runs down your body.   Acknowledge the temperature and how good it makes your muscles feel and helps them relax.    Be mindful of the sensation of your hand passing over your skin and why not take a moment to give your shoulders a little massage to ease them.   Smell your shower gel or soap and let the fragrance invigorate you.     Have a conscious awareness of being in the shower paying attention to the water, heat, touch, and smell.   When you focus on your senses when showering, your mind will let go of the day ahead and allow you to enjoy the pleasure of time on your own, present in the moment.    If you really want to become present to your body, just before finishing turn OFF the hot water and let the cold water exhilarate you for a few moments.   

As you dry yourself appreciate the feel of the dry towel against your wet skin.  Cherish the moment and how clean, refreshed and relaxed you feel before you move on with your day.

8: Hello, are you listening?

We’ve all heard the expression ‘selective deafness’, usually when we talk about our partner.    However, we all listen selectively when we are not mindful of listening with intent.

Tip 8:   Mindful Listening.

Selective deafness is our ability to deliberately tune out of hearing sound as we focus our attention on something we find more interesting!   Never great when we are having a conversation.   To be a better listener you need to be mindful and recognise when you drift off during a conversation, getting lost in your own thoughts.   When this happens, to bring your awareness back to the present moment, take a deep breath and return to the conversation.   Be fully present and notice any nonverbal behaviours being expressed, as this is valuable information.  By observing as well as listening, it helps us to understand emotions, feelings, and intentions beyond what words alone suggest.

Setting your intention on being a better listener is a start and a good way to practice mindful listening is to HEAR.

HALT:       Halt whatever you are doing and offer your full attention.

ENJOY:     Enjoy a breath as you choose to receive whatever is being communicated to you…. wanted or unwanted.

ASK:          Ask yourself if you really know what they mean and if you don’t, never make assumptions, ask for clarification.

REFLECT:  Reflect back to them what you heard. This tells them that you were really listening.

9: Think before you speak

Just as we can listen more fully, it is also possible to speak more mindfully. This means speaking our truth, as best we can in any given moment, and being aware of what we are saying.

Tip 9:     Mindful Speaking

As with all things mindfulness, prior to speaking, slow things down a bit.  A slow deliberate pause allows you to take a breath and check in with yourself about what you are about to say and why you want to say it.  Keep these 3 thoughts front of mind and you’ll become more mindful when you speak.  Is it True? is it Kind? Is it Necessary?

True:    Are you exaggerating, only saying part of a story, is it your opinion?  Before speaking ask yourself ‘Is this true? Do I know that for sure?”

Kind:    It may seem obvious that some remarks are kind, and some are not. Even if it turns out to be true that your friend made a bad relationship decision why risk a friendship by pointing out the obvious.  Be supportive, not hurtful.   ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. 

Necessary:     While it might be kinder not to comment on the above situation, there are times when you do have to speak up, as it’s necessary.   It is necessary to let your partner know that you’re unhappy before your unhappiness has you packing your bags.   It is necessary to inform others if someone is doing the wrong thing, even if that person is your friend. 

Check in and notice what is going on in your body before you speak.  If it doesn’t feel right, then perhaps it’s better not to say it.

10: Night-time routine

Having a mindful routine before going to sleep is very beneficial and can improve not only our sleep but our overall wellbeing.  Do you have a routine?     There are lots of well documented do’s and don’ts before going to bed:  DO turn off all electronics, DON’T eat before bed etc.      Here are a few of my suggestions to help calm, relax and be mindful as you prepare for sleep.

Stand next to your bed and take a few deep breaths and feel gratitude for its warmth, comfort and support it gives you each night.    As you climb into bed and lie down, feel your body assume its normal resting position and take several deep meaningful breaths and relax your body into the mattress.    Now perform a body scan, bringing your attention to your body and breath.   Start at the feet and wriggle your toes.   Breath in and as you exhale visualise your toes and feet relaxing.   Continue this for your whole body from your toes to your head.   If your mind starts to wander during the process, don’t judge yourself, simply come back to the breath and continue with the scan.   

Don’t try and force yourself to sleep, as soon as you try and force something you create stress and activate the brain, which is opposite to what we want.    If you struggle with doing the body scan yourself, there are many meditations available for you to download.   If you have an overactive mind, I’d recommend a different sleep meditation for every night of the week.  That way you are mindful of what is being said and not what comes next having heard it before.      

Night night and sleep tight x