Mindfulness- Part 3: 10 Tips for Day-to-Day Mindfulness

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We mentioned in our previous blog that meditation is one of the most effective ways to practice mindfulness and build your familiarity with the philosophy on a subconscious level.

However, you can still apply mindfulness on a more informal level as you go about your day.

10 simple tips to mindfulness

Below are 10 practical ways in which you can implement mindfulness and enjoy its immense benefits.

1. Communication. As you speak with another person, draw attention to the sound of their voice and your own. Do so without losing focus on the meaning of the conversation, and kindly remind yourself to acknowledge and let go of any distracting or irrelevant thoughts and feelings.

2. Walking. When you walk, whether it be long or short distance, pay attention to how you feel as you do so. Notice the sensation of your feet as they effortlessly move and make contact with the ground, and bring your attention to the sights, smells and sounds of your journey.

3. Exercise. Just as you do when walking, you can practice mindfulness during more intense physical exercise – such as at the gym. While you may welcome distractions form the physical effort, strain and fatigue, allow your mind to focus on your body and the immediate environment.

4. Working. No matter what you do for a living, there are bound to be times that your mind wanders off into a more pleasant place. Instead, keep your attention on the task at hand without overly exerting yourself to concentrate.

5. Driving. If anyone says they have never day dreamed behind the wheel, they are lying. Next time you hop in the car, focus on driving as safely as possible and to the best of your ability. If your mind wanders a little, gently bring it back to the task at hand.

6. Traveling. A holiday is one of the easiest times to practice being mindful, as it’s often the time you are most looking forward to. However, you can still get caught up thinking about what you need to do when you return or even the next holiday, so take this opportunity to truly experience the moment. Breathe the air. Sit down and watch the world go by. Just be.

7. Waiting. Traffic, queues, trains, waiting rooms – you’re always going to face periods of waiting at certain points in your life, and there is nothing to be achieved by allowing yourself to be overcome with frustration. Acknowledge, accept and let go of these feelings if they arise, and take a moment to observe the immediate environment or practice some informal mindfulness of breath.

8. Music. How often do you sit down and listen to your favourite music without any distractions? Music is a wonderful gift, but it’s often put on in the background while we focus on other things. Try getting comfortable in bed or in your favourite chair and just listening – what instruments can you hear? Are they loud or soft? Just like your breathing meditation, remember to gently bring your mind back to the music if any thoughts float on by.

9. Learning. We often struggle to live in the moment when we do things as second nature. Learning something knew – whether it be through reading, practising a skill or anything else – is a wonderful way to keep yourself present and self-aware. Remember to bring an attitude of curiosity!

10. Acceptance. Pay attention to the people in your life and accept their human nature. Allow yourself to forgive mistakes, accept apologies and maintain a more open mind with those you may disagree with.

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Mindfulness – Part 2: A Simple Guide to Meditation

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Mindfulness ranges from basic mental exercises through to more advanced techniques and philosophies. As we have touched on in our previous article, it can be performed while doing something as simple as brushing your teeth or driving your car.

However, one of the best ways to practice mindfulness and encourage your mind to apply it on a subconscious level is through meditation.

If you have never meditated before, don’t worry!

Meditation is an extremely broad term that can refer to many different things. In this case, all it means is to perform a simple mental exercise. No need to chant or light candles – unless you want to, then go for it!

7-steps to simple meditation

This simple meditation technique focuses on your breath. You can do it by yourself or in a group. Remember, the important thing is that you maintain a clear focus and awareness on your breathing.

Prepare for meditation

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit. It could be on a chair or on the floor. No special equipment is required – the important thing is that you can sit in a stable and comfortable position.
  2. Position your arms and legs. There are no strict rules here, but you want to encourage stability and a natural posture. If on a cushion on the floor, just cross your legs in front of you as comfortably as possible; if on a chair, sit normally with both feet flat on the floor. With your arms, let them sit naturally with your palms on your legs.
  3. Think about your posture. Don’t slouch, but you don’t have to sit ramrod straight, either. Sit with a good posture that follows the natural curvature of your spine, but make sure it’s comfortable and doesn’t require continual effort.
  4. Relax your eyes. At this point, you can either close your eyes or keep them open. If leaving them open, soften your gaze so that you aren’t intently focusing on anything in particular.

‘Do’ the meditation

Now that you are in a natural and comfortable position, you can start the exercise itself:

  1. Focus on your breath. Gently concentrate on your breathing and how it feels in your body. Experience the sensation of the air entering your nose and filling your lungs as you breathe in, and feel your chest lower and the sensation in your belly as you exhale through your mouth.
  2. Acknowledge, accept and let go of any thoughts. While focusing on your breathing, you will inevitably feel your mind wander and become distracted by various thoughts and emotions. Don’t try to supress or block the process of thinking, as this is the nature of the mind. Simply make a mental note of their existence and gently bring yourself back to the sensation of your breath. Continue this process for 5-10 minutes or as long as you wish to continue the meditation.
  3. When ready, mentally conclude the meditation and open your eyes. If you already had your eyes open, lift your gaze and allow yourself to take in the environment around you. Don’t leap up and rush off – just take a moment to experience the sights and sounds of where you are. Finally, reflect on the thoughts or emotions you are experiencing after meditating, and take note of how your body feels.

That’s it! Easy, right?

Whilst there are a variety of mindfulness meditation techniques that can be used, the one suggested above is really effective for beginners.

Remember, its important that you do not become annoyed or exasperated if your mind wanders.

‘Wandering’ is the nature of the mind. Its particularly common to happen when starting out with meditation. Over time, you will begin to notice you have an improved ability to focus on your breath and allow thoughts and emotions to pass by.

Just Be!

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Mindfulness – Part 1: An Introduction

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Mindfulness has been around in ancient cultures for millennia. Lately though, its enjoying a very welcome and long overdue renaissance. It is rapidly evolving from a niche and ‘exotic eastern concept’ into a mainstream lifestyle practice.

Things like stress, anger, happiness, amusement, sadness and other states of mind are all facts of life. Whether you live a busy, fast-paced life in the middle of the city or enjoy a simple existence away from the hustle and bustle of it all, it’s inevitable that you will experience these feelings to some degree.

Fundamentally, mindfulness is a specific and deliberate strategy. It focuses on training your mind to cope with the ups and downs of everyday life.

Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation. It can also be applied to day-to-day situations to help improve your overall well being.

Why practice mindfulness?

Consider a stressful situation. Whether it be sitting in peak hour traffic, being overwhelmed at work, or tripping over the kerb. These and others lead to stress. They trigger physiological responses in your body. Without getting stuck into the science, its these responses that make you experience stress.

One of the key elements of mindfulness is remaining present and acknowledging these naturally occurring states of mind without attempting to suppress them.

There’s plenty of scientific evidence to associate mindfulness with physiological and psychological benefits. While every individual is unique, the following are just some of the most common benefits of mindfulness:

  • Stress relief
  • Better sleep
  • Reduced anxiety or depression
  • Increased emotional stability
  • Lower heart rate
  • Effortless breathing
  • Enhanced problem solving skills
  • Improved overall well-being

5 mindfulness concepts

The overall practice of mindfulness encompasses a range of elements or attitudes. While these don’t dictate a specific technique of meditation, they will help you get in the right frame of mind to begin practicing mindfulness.

  1. Awareness of your emotions. This is a core pillar of mindfulness. Ask yourself what thoughts and emotions you are experiencing right now. Or, how does your body feel at this exact moment? Being curious about the ‘self’ helps to experience living itself. Otherwise, we merely go through the ‘motions’ without actually ever being present.
  2. Impartiality to your thoughts and emotions. This is critical to remain mentally stable and aware of the fact that they are merely experiences of living. Do not label these as good or bad. Simply observe what you are experiencing from a completely neutral standpoint. Become the ‘observer’.
  3. Acceptance of these thoughts, emotions and general feelings is another important aspect of mindfulness. This doesn’t mean you lay down and allow these things to overcome you; rather, it focuses on acceptance of what you are experiencing as opposed to denial.
  4. Letting go of the ups and downs is a necessity in life. Many of us try to clutch onto our most pleasant experiences while smothering any others, rather than allowing ourselves to accept them and move on. Again, this does not mean you should give up and avoid seeking improvement; it just means that you are allowing them to pass by without defining who you are.
  5. Avoid goal-setting in terms of ‘overcoming’ or ‘beating’ whatever you are experiencing. Mindfulness is about being aware of the experience itself, rather than setting out with a goal of ‘becoming enlightened’ or ‘never being angry’.

And Finally…

Mindfulness relies on patience, trust, and open-mindedness. Allow yourself to explore it at your own pace. Especially if you are hearing about it for the first time. Rather than be in a hurry to become an expert, nurture yourself as a beginner and let the journey unfold – mindfully!

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What to Know About Your First Yoga Class

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Whether your first yoga class is fast approaching or you are thinking about starting soon, you may feel a small amount of uncertainty or even a flutter of nerves.

What if I can’t do a pose? What if everyone starts chanting? How will I know the different between a Chakra and a Mantra?

If you find yourself pondering these ultimately useless hypotheticals and feeling a little nervous, don’t worry! First and foremost, it’s important to remember that even the most experienced yogi had to start from somewhere.

Yoga classes are a judgement-free zone, and you are likely to encounter other beginners in a similar situation as yourself. Don’t imagine a room full of experts with you in the middle: it’s a personal journey, and everyone is practising yoga at their own pace.

To start with, pat yourself on the back for taking on something new.

It’s normal to experience these feelings in unfamiliar circumstances, but remember that stepping outside your comfort zone is the only way to learn and grow as a person!

Yoga Clothing

You don’t have to be kitted out in the latest luxe-brand activewear to practice yoga. All you need are some light and breathable threads that you feel comfortable in – remember that you’ll warm up during the class, especially if the studio is heated. No need to buy a new pair of shoes, because you’ll be doing everything barefoot.

Yoga Class Gear

There are all sorts of yoga accessories out there from wheels and blocks to straps and balls. Ultimately, however, these are only used for specific poses and are not a requirement. All you’ll need to get started is a yoga mat, a mat towel and a water bottle. The first two are often available for hire if you aren’t ready to make a purchase, but it’s worth investing in them at some point as they will form your basic kit. From there, all you need is yourself!

Diet

Don’t worry, practising yoga doesn’t mean you need to focus on a full nutritional program just yet (unless you’re ready to!). However, it’s worth paying attention to what you eat and drink before your class. Keep it light with a snack and some water in the hour or two before your class: any less and you may feel faint or low on energy, any more and your stomach might protest.

Yoga Etiquette

There are some basic unspoken rules that are best adhered to when you visit the yoga studio – nothing serious or formal, just some ways to help improve the experience of yourself and those around you. Firstly, try to turn up at least 15 minutes early. You want to be nice and calm to ensure you are in the right headspace, and rushing in late will make it harder to make that mental transition. Plus, it may disturb others if you barge through the doors when the class has started. Secondly, remember to keep the space nice and peaceful by avoiding conversation and leaving your phone outside. These are just some basic manners that you’ll find easy to demonstrate from the get go.

Embrace First Yoga Class with an Open Mind

These are just some basic tips that will hopefully settle any nerves you may be having. On the whole, it’s important to approach your class with a curious and open mind. Don’t fret if you can’t do a pose, fall behind or miss the meaning of a word: it’s your personal journey and there is absolutely nothing you need to be worried about.

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