It’s easy to rush through life without stopping to notice anything. We can get weighed down by work, responsibilities, school, and even thinking about what to have for dinner can be a chore. When we go to bed, our thoughts are still whizzing around, trying to catch up with the day. However, it’s important to pause, take a breath, and be mindful of what’s going on. This is known as ‘mindfulness’ and can help you enjoy each day, and each sleep, just a bit more.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a technique you can learn, and it involves making a special effort to notice what’s happening in the present moment without judging anything. This can be what’s happening in your mind, body, and even your surroundings. Its roots are in Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual or have any particular beliefs to try it.
Mindfulness aims to help you become more self-aware, feel calmer and less stressed, and feel more able to choose how to respond to your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you cope with difficult or darker thoughts. Plus, the best thing about mindfulness is that it’ll help you be kinder towards yourself. If you do all this, you’ll find that your thoughts and feelings aren’t as frantic when you’re trying to relax for bed, so you’ll drift off to sleep much easier.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
How we think, and what we think about, can affect how we feel and act. For example, if you think or worry about upsetting past or future events, you might often feel sad or anxious. These thoughts can often keep you awake at night. The theory behind mindfulness is that, by using various techniques to bring your attention to the present, you can:
Notice how thoughts come and go in your mind. They don’t have to define who you are, or your experience of the world, and you can learn to let go of them.
Notice what your body is telling you. For example, tension or anxiety can often be felt in your body. This could be a fast heartbeat, tense muscles, or shallow breathing.
Create space between you and your thoughts. If you do this, you can react more calmly.
What Mindfulness Exercises Can You Try?
Different techniques work for different people. If you don’t find one of the exercises below useful, try another. You can also adapt them so that they suit you and are easier to fit in with your daily life.
Pay attention to the taste, sight, and textures of what you eat. When drinking a cup of tea or coffee, you could focus on how hot it feels on your tongue, how sweet it tastes, or even watch the steam that wafts up from it.
Mindful Moving, Walking, or Running
Notice how your body moves. You could notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet or hands against different textures on the ground, or nearby surfaces. Thinking about the different smells that are around you would help you put yourself in the moment.
A body scan is where you move your attention slowly through different parts of the body, starting from the top of your head and moving all the way down to the end of your toes. You could think about feelings of warmth, tension, tingling, or relaxation of different parts of your body.
Mindful Colouring and Drawing
Colouring and drawing are soothing exercises, but having a mindful approach can make them even more relaxing. Focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil as it glides across the paper. Rather than trying to draw something in particular, letting your senses guide you can be just as rewarding. You could also use a mindfulness colouring book or download mindfulness colouring images.
Sit quietly and focus on your breathing, your thoughts, sensations in your body, and the things you can hear around you. Try to bring your attention back to the present if your mind starts to wander. Yoga could also help you concentrate on your breathing and focus on the present moment.
How Do You Get the Most from Mindfulness Exercises?
When you do any of the above exercises, the key steps are:
Pay attention. When you shower in the morning, pay attention to the feel of water on your skin.
Notice. When your mind wanders, simply notice where your thoughts have drifted to.
Choose and return. Choose to bring your attention back to the present moment – you can usually do this by focusing on your breathing, or another sensation in your body.
Be aware and accept. Try to observe and notice the emotions you feel or sensations in your body. Accepting these with friendly curiosity, and without judgement, will help you act more calmly.
Be kind to yourself. Mindfulness is difficult to do, and our minds will always wander. Don’t be critical of yourself. Simply bringing yourself back to the exercise when your mind goes in its own direction will help you come back to the present moment.