Many of us find it extremely difficult to keep focus in the present and live more mindfully. Being more mindful is a way to silence brain chatter and the anxiety that comes with it. There are many tools to help you achieve this state of acceptance and calm within the mind. It can be as simple as being aware of your breathing, sounds and smells around you; taking time to connect with nature or enjoying every day pleasures that usually pass you by. To live more mindfully, first you must care for yourself and believe you are good enough. Here are some tips to help you get there.
By identifying passing thoughts active in your stream of consciousness, meditation can be a cleansing way to rid your mind of “future thoughts”. Distractive thoughts, or a restless mind, is known in Buddhism as “monkey mind”. Morning meditation can help with anxiety or negative thoughts, by bringing them to the surface and allowing you to let them go. This clarity in the morning can also give you better focus for the rest of the day. Those who can benefit most from meditation are often those who find it the most difficult! Apps like HeadSpace can be a great introduction and way to get started. Even a few moments of stillness can have a great impact on your mindset. Breathing techniques are the first tool we learn in traditional meditation to bring the wandering “monkey mind” back to the breath and be more present. But there are other ways to meditate, for example, rather than trying to distil thoughts, you can simply observe them and let them pass. Each method is a good way to detox the mind, so to speak. Scientific studies have shown meditation to reduce both neurological and psychological mind chatter.
State of flow
Being mindful can also be when you are lost in the moment in a state of flow. For example, if you are running or swimming your only focus may be thinking about your next step or stroke. Gardening, cooking and knitting are other examples of past-times that can set your mind into a nice calming state of flow. Being in nature and away from distractions is another way to connect more mindfully in the present. Time goes quickly and unsettled mind chattering subsides when you are truly in a state of flow. We all have different ways to achieve flow and it’s often about trying something new to see what works for you. Some people may be lucky enough to achieve this feeling of energised focus and full involvement through their work. The very process, and not the result, should be what you enjoy about the activity; as in life, it is often the journey we relish most.
We are all rushing around so much that we can forget to breathe! Many of us are not taking advantage of our full breathing capacity which can impact our physical and mental health. We often carry troubles on our breath through shallow breathing and breathlessness. Practice breathing deeper and longer so you feel your breath deep in your diaphragm. Simple breathing exercises are a great way to manage anxiety and prevent panic attacks. Being aware of your breath is also an excellent way to bring yourself back to the present moment. Deep breathing can stir up emotions, but it can be a healthy renewal process for self acceptance and healing. As the breath is used in meditation to bring us back to the present, better connection to your breath improves mindfulness and therefore contentment. Breath awareness and deeper breathing techniques are quick and easy tools at your disposal to help overcome difficult moments or emotions in life.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
It is not always easy to find your tribe, but a sense of community or belonging can make you feel more grounded to better enjoy the present. Commuting and working all day in an office makes it too easy to come home and disconnect from the world. If this sounds like you, try getting up a little earlier and attending a yoga or activity class, or going for an evening stroll. Attending workshops to learn new skills not only re-focuses the mind but also increases your chances of finding like-minded people. It’s always great to give your attention to others when trying to be more mindful. When that is just not possible, writing can be a clarifying way to sound out anything in particular you are going through. By creating a narrative to address your distractions or concerns, the process helps to put things in perspective, for more control and less mind chatter. Find what gives you therapeutic value through every day enjoyment.
Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep for not only physical health and repair but mental wellbeing too. Harvard Medical report that “Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience, while chronic sleep deprivation sets the stage for negative thinking and emotional vulnerability.” A lack of sleep can lead to depression and anxiety, not to mention poor focus and reaction times. Improve your chances of a good night’s sleep with an evening exercise routine. Try an evening walk or run; reduce screen time and lower lights an hour before bed; keep the bedroom dark and free of distractions; relax in a bath that is lavender infused and candle-lit; meditate – there are some great sleep meditation guides, including on the HeadSpace App; practice breathing exercises; avoid caffeine after 3pm. A good night’s sleep can also be impacted by alcohol.
Be kind to yourself
Practice self acceptance rather than trying to control or change yourself. Refocus negative thoughts by thinking of positive aspects of your personality and life. This can give you greater satisfaction and connection to the present. Self-compassion takes time, but if you can’t be kind to yourself, the negative energy will affect your relationships with others. Respond to your anxiety as you would to a friend’s, with soothing reassurance and understanding. Practice healthy internal dialogue with yourself, such as: “It is difficult to feel this way, but you will get through it.” You will reach a more mindful and happy headspace if you are able to appreciate what you have. This all comes back to self-acceptance to be a more authentic, fulfilled you!