We hear a lot about ‘mindfulness’ these days. So what can it do for you? And how can you practise it easily?
While there are a lot of wellness and mindfulness apps on the market, we explore how you can improve both your mental and physical health the old school way, with just a change in mindset.
Let’s start with mental health. Are you someone who prides yourself in looking after others? As women, we often put immense effort into being kind to the people around us because we want them to feel valued, safe and good about themselves. In our acts of kindness and when thinking kind thoughts, we are considerate and gentle, and provide care and affection.
Yet, how often do you offer kindness to yourself? How frequently do you support your own needs, give yourself a break, or tell yourself that you are loved and everything will be OK?
Being kind to yourself not only provides a sense of security, it also enables you to give to others from a place of inner confidence and trust.
How can mindfulness benefit you physically?
It helps your body – not just your brain – achieve calm
Research has proven that the ancient practice of mindfulness increases your inner wellbeing by helping you to slow down. It calms the parts of your brain that create stress, and builds the parts that lift your mood.
‘Mindfulness can help you let go of the belief that you must do everything,’ says Vidyamala Burch. Vidyamala Burch is co-founder of the UK mindfulness organisation Breathworks, and co-author of Mindfulness for Women.
‘The sense of calm and stillness that mindfulness brings about helps you develop an inner compass where YOU are in charge of your life, rather than feeling like a helpless victim of circumstances. It is a way of escaping the surface chaos of your life and entering a calm stillness underneath.’
Tip: when you need to give yourself some grace, spend a few minutes being mindful. Sit down and notice the sounds around you. Then feel your body at work – your heart beating, your lungs breathing and any sensations, such as body temperature. Being in your body brings you into the present moment and out of your head.
How to actually practise mindfulness
1. Talk to yourself as a friend
Friendships are essential to our wellbeing for many reasons, not least because friends help us feel good about ourselves in both uplifting and hard times.
When we see friends beating themselves up over something, we offer words of kindness and support; we provide space for them to share. Show that love to yourself.
‘Make sure the voice in your head is always kind to you,’ says Vex King, author of Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness. ‘You’ll encounter many people in life who are willing to put you down, but you shouldn’t be one of them.’
Tip: if you begin to notice that the things you say to yourself are mean and negative, ask yourself how you would speak to your best friend if they were feeling this way. Use these words on yourself. ‘Change your inner dialogue so it supports you in life,’ says Vex.
2. Switch off and enjoy some me-time
Taking time out from your usual stresses is a great way to release some pressure on yourself and enjoy me-time.
‘Reading a book or watching a film can be a passport to a different world’ says Mary Conroy, author of Simplify Your Life, a guide to applying minimalism to various aspects of your life. ‘Rereading an old favourite can be as comforting as slipping into a warm bath.’
Tip: ‘Almost every book that has ever been published, every movie or drama that’s been filmed is just a few clicks away online,’ Mary reminds us. ‘Step off the treadmill of chasing after the latest cultural experience to catch up with a few old favourites.’
3. Congratulate yourself
Your inner critic can be the loudest voice in the room at times. It judges and affects your self-esteem. Why not invite your inner cheerleader to the party instead?
‘As soon as you start getting perspective on your own life and you let yourself off the hook, you stop criticising yourself so much, and you become more fearless in the way you live your life,’ explains Dr Danny Penman. He is co-author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, and The Art of Breathing.
Tip: When you notice your inner critic at work, consider the ways in which you can reframe the thought to congratulate yourself instead.
For example, ‘I’m not where I should be in life’ can be turned around by acknowledging all your achievements, big or small, and reminding yourself that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
4. Find activities that sustain you – not drain you
It’s possible to spend a whole day doing errands that drain you, which can lead to feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
While there are many things that you may have to do, such as taking care of your family and home, find time to engage in activities that sustain you and help you feel nourished.
‘The key is to prioritise meaningful, pleasurable activities that are energising and really give your life meaning,’ says Vidyamala.
Tip: ‘List all the things in life that sustain you and give you pleasure and joy,’ advises Vidyamala. ‘Next write down all the things that drain you. Be honest.’ What needs to happen in order for you to devote more time to your ‘sustainers’? If you can’t drop some of your ‘drainers’, work on how can you reduce their impact on your happiness.
5. Stop trying to please everyone
It’s not selfish to put yourself before others. Perhaps people have come to expect too much of your time and energy, and you’ve fallen into the trap of trying to deliver on their every expectation.
‘We do a lot of things in order to be accepted, but if we want to do well in life and maintain our peace, we have to be a little selfish,’ says Vex. ‘We’ll never be able to satisfy absolutely everyone, and that’s exactly why we shouldn’t try. Give up the habit of being a people-pleaser and start pleasing you!’
Tip: Let yourself off the expectations hook by setting time aside for you to do something relaxing just for you, like lounging in the bath, spending time on a creative hobby, journaling or even stretching out your beauty regime.
‘You have a lot of energy to give, but you must save some of that energy for yourself,’ says Vex.
Where can I find help with achieving mindfulness?
If you need support and guidance as you embark on your mindfulness journey, it could help to sign up to the services offered by woman&home partner, Mindbox.
Mindbox offers support and therapy for people who need assistance with a range of mental health issues – from those wanting to be more mindful, to those living with anxiety and panic attacks, and individuals who are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with stress management. The sessions mostly take place via video, audio and journal sessions that you can do at your own pace and in your own time.
At woman&home, we believe it’s important to access help when you need it, which is why we have partnered with Mindbox to offer you an exclusive discount of up to 50 per cent off their services.
Faith Hill is a life coach and NLP master practitioner. w&h readers can save 20% on her online private coaching programmes. Quote w&h at the website sparkescapes.com