Like it or not, stress seems to be part of our daily lives. Whether it’s worrying about money, job, family or relationships, too much anxiety can have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing. But when your body and mind is running on adrenaline, it makes it difficult to slow down at the end of the day – and harder to get started in the morning.
To help them cope with their daily lives, many people self-medicate, consuming coffee or energy drinks as a repeated energy booster during the day, while using alcohol to relax in the evening. While this can bring short term relief, it doesn’t address the underlying problems and long-term use of artificial stimulants and relaxants can takes its toll on your health.
Rather than relying on caffeinated drinks to keep your energy levels from crashing during the day, how about trying healthier alternatives that help you rebalance the body and soothe the mind? In addition to paying attention to your diet and eating mindfully, here are 3 hot, calming beverages that might just do the trick.
If you’re feeling frazzled and anxious, try a glass of warm milk. It’s not a new idea but it works. In scientific terms, milk packs tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin aka the ‘feelgood’ chemical in the body. Higher levels of serotonin in the blood will calm you down and improve your mood, while calcium and magnesium help lower blood pressure. If you’re not keen on the taste of heated up milk, add some good old Ovaltine – it’s high magnesium content is perfect to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. Or try a Vegan variation called Golden Milk, made with coconut or almond milk, turmeric, pepper, coconut oil, cinnamon and honey.
Valerian Root Tea
Research shows that Valerian helps to boost the amount of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain, whose job it is to regulate nerve cells and calm anxiety. Valerian root tea has a strong sedative effect and it can also act as a pain killer. It’s best to have a cup just before bedtime – not everyone feels sleepy after drinking Valerian Root Tea but if you’re affected, don’t drink and drive or operate machinery! Beware that Valerian has an interesting aroma that not everyone likes, which is why you’ll often find it in bedtime tea mixes together with other soothing herbs such as Chamomile, Lavender, Fennel, Lime Flower, Passion Flower or Liquorice.
Decaffeinated Green Tea
Green tea is one of the oldest teas in the world. Made from the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, it’s arguably one of the healthiest beverages you can consume. Its health giving benefits come from phytochemicals, natural chemical compounds found in plants, including flavanols that give green tea its rich antioxidant content. Decaf green tea contains theanine, which will reduce stress and improve sleep. Make sure you don’t choose regular green tea, since the caffeine it contains may well keep you from sleeping.
Now the summer holidays are over and we’re all back at our desks, now might be a good time to address an issue that affects many people, both at work and at home: time management.
If you’re feeling snowed under with work or overwhelmed with responsibilities and are struggling to cope on a regular basis, productivity can take a nosedive. The result? Nothing gets done, you feel guilty, you start doubting your own abilities and the cycle can easily spiral downwards.
The Pomodoro Technique is one of many time management tools that can be really useful to help you break down your tasks into small ‘bite sized’ chunks. Whether your in-tray always seems to be overflowing, you’re suffering from work stress or are a self-confessed procrastinator, give this technique a try and see if you can use it to improve your productivity.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
This time management method was developed in the late 1980s by Italian entrepreneur and software developer Francesco Cirillo. The aim is to work with the time you have rather than against it. Using a ‘Pomodoro Timer’, break your workday into 25-minute chunks – each interval unit is 1 pomodoro – punctuated by 5-minute breaks. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
The timer can be a smartphone app, an alarm clock or any accurate timer device. Cirillo originally used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato, hence the name – pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. There are plenty of Pomodoro Timer Apps available.
Alternatively, YouTube has a number of interesting videos you can use including silent ones:
Some with ocean waves as background ‘white noise’:
Or soothing classical music:
How does this help you?
The idea behind the technique is to instill a sense of urgency into your workday, setting yourself goals and targets to be met within the natural rhythm of the human attention span which is about 20-25 minutes. Rather than feeling that you have endless time to get things done during the day, but then squandering precious hours working ineffectively or being distracted, working within a pomodoro focuses the mind to help you make progress on the task in hand.
No more scrolling through Facebook or a quick look on Amazon, reading clickbait or replying to non-urgent emails. Instead, your mind will be fully zoned in on whatever project you’re working on, knowing you only have to concentrate for 25 minutes before you can have a break.
What’s more, the pre-planned rest times really help to eliminate that frazzled, burnt out feeling many people experience at the end of the working day. Using the Pomodoro technique stops you from spending hours in front of the computer without moving, since the timer reminds you to get up and take regular breaks from the desk.
At KlearMinds, we have a team of highly qualified and experienced counsellors, psychotherapists and life coaches ready to help you with any concerns that may be troubling you including stress management, career advice and self-confidence issues. If you feel that it would help to talk to someone who may be able to help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You’ve heard of mindfulness at work, but what about mindful eating? While our relationship with food is not always straightforward, it’s good to see that people are generally becoming more conscious about the food they eat.
Whether this translates into trying to lose weight or choosing organic produce, cooking from scratch or cutting down on processed ingredients, it’s an active engagement with what we put into our bodies – and that must surely be a good thing. However, when we put this much care into choosing what we eat, it makes sense to put the same amount of love into the actual eating of it.
Do you often hurry or even skip your meals? Stress, for example, can be a powerful appetite suppressant that isn’t healthy at all. Do you multitask while eating? Do you make family mealtimes a priority? By respecting mealtimes and paying attention to the ritual of eating food, we prepare our bodies to receive the full benefit of the food. And eating mindfully not only helps your digestion (that’s a scientific fact) and therefore your physical health, it has mental health benefits too. Mindful eating helps you to feel calmer, happier and more satisfied.
Here are 7 tips to help you to eat more mindfully:
1 – Eat proper meals every day
If you’ve got into the habit of snacking all day, skipping breakfast or eating at irregular hours, try switching back to 3 regular meals per day. Eating balanced meals at regular intervals helps maintain steady blood sugar levels, keeping energy slumps at bay. What’s more, it takes our bodies around 3 hours to process meals after which it needs to rest. If you ‘graze’ throughout the day, you put more strain on the digestive system, making it sluggish and less efficient.
2 – Take your time over meals
In addition to taking regular mealtimes, it’s important not to rush our food. We spend such a small proportion of our day actually eating, and yet it’s an important time and process to nourish our bodies. Surely, even with stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles, everyone should be able to spare half an hour to sit down and eat properly?! Not only does eating more slowly, calmly and relaxed help us digest our food better, it’s an opportunity to really savour and relish each mouthful and enjoy the sensory pleasure of eating delicious food.
3 – Sit down while you eat
Grabbing a sandwich on the go or having a quick bite while you’re waiting for the train is a bad habit to get into. When we sit down, our bodies are at rest, meaning our energy can move inwards to the stomach and digestive system. Ever heard of ‘rest and digest’? That’s the state our nervous system should be in at mealtimes. Conversely, when we are standing up or moving around, the circulation is actively bringing blood to our arms and legs, while action hormones such as adrenaline are being released that are not helpful to the digestive process.
4 – Chew your food well
Digestion starts in the mouth – with chewing. If you rush your food and wolf down large mouthfuls, you are not getting the most from your meals. Good chewing allows you to assimilate the nutrients well – your teeth break down fibre and the saliva mixes with the food allowing the enzymes to break down the carbohydrates. Carb rich foods such as grains, beans and vegetables benefit particularly well from thorough chewing – and you will feel fuller more quickly. Try putting your cutlery down and chew each mouthful at least ten times.
5 – Make your meals screen free
Mindful eating means focusing on the process of nourishing your body. You can’t do that while you’re multitasking. However tempting it may be to eat in front of the TV, check your emails while having lunch or keep your phone next to you on the table just in case a message comes in, break the habit! Let mealtimes be just for eating and you’ll soon find that these times become small islands of rest and relaxation during a busy day.
6 – Make it look beautiful
Don’t underestimate the importance of the visual appeal of your dining area and the food itself. Wouldn’t you rather have your meals in attractive surroundings? And wouldn’t you prefer food that looked truly appetising to eat? Make the food look good with colour and garnish, served in pretty bowls and in an uplifting space, and feel the energy nourish you inside you as you’re having your mealtime break. Best of all, share the experience with family and friends and nourish your spirit too!
7 – Appreciate your meals
Rather than taking your meals for granted and viewing food as nothing more than fuel to get the body through the day, take a few moments to really think about where it has come from. It’s a humbling experience to truly appreciate the abundance of nature that makes it possible for all of us to be alive, part of the natural world that we live in. You don’t need to be especially spiritual to feel the interconnection between yourself and all other living things.
Are you apprehensive about going outside? Does your home seem the only place where you feel comfortable and truly safe? Isolating yourself from the outside world can become an unhealthy habit, which can cause feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and intense anxiety, putting your social life, career and mental health in danger.
Agoraphobia is the technical term for an irrational fear of going outside. Sufferers often have a hard time feeling safe in public places where there are other people, which can bring on anxiety attacks. It can be a tricky situation but all is not lost – there are strategies you can employ to conquer your fears.
Professional help may help you achieve your aims more quickly. At KlearMinds, our counsellors and psychotherapists are trained in a wide range of therapies, meaning we can tailor our approach to best suit your personality to help you achieve lasting change. We can even meet you via Skype or FaceTime, if that’s easier for you than coming to see us in person.
Meanwhile, here are 5 tips to help you gradually get more comfortable outside the safety of your home.
1 – Ask a friend to come along
If you really dread having to go outside and do things, ask a trusted friend, partner or relative to help you integrate slowly with the outside world. Place your trust in the process and build positive feelings every time you go outside to override the feeling of fear. Try to rid your fears one social situation at a time to lessen the tension you associate with outside stimuli, and replace negative thoughts with positive experiences. Eventually, with practice, your anxiety levels will subside.
2 – Use music to ease the transition
Try listening to some of your favourite music every time you leave the house. Put your headphones on and choose some songs that inspire and uplift, so that you associate your outing with a positive experience. You can use your music as a kind of safety blanket to cocoon you from the outside world, lessening the tension you may otherwise feel.
3 – Take a book with you
Next time you have to wait for the bus or at the dentist’s, bring a book to occupy yourself and shield yourself from the outside stimuli of having people around you. It’s a clever strategy that you can use anywhere. What’s more, if you bring a book that you’re in the middle of reading, you’ll be too engrossed in the story to be worried about what’s happening around you.
4 – Play games on your phone
Many people pull out their smartphones when they’re bored – you can do the same when you’re feeling scared or anxious. Put a couple of favourite games on your phone that you can turn to in an effort to put your mind at ease. Even if you want to interact with other people, you can do it in little steps, using the phone as a ‘crutch’ whenever necessary. Phone games can also be a godsend when you’re having to go on long trips.
5 – Research and plan your trips
If the great unknown of what you might find outside worries you, take away the fear by doing as much planning and research as you can beforehand. Check out maps and street views and other online ‘reconnaissance’ to help you visualise what it will be like. Plan the route so you know exactly how to get there and back. Knowing your surroundings (and how to get back to safety in case of sudden anxiety) will go a long way to making you feel less insecure.
We all have the occasional bad day at work but what do you do if the bad days increasingly outnumber the good ones? If the pendulum has swung too far to the ‘bad’ side, when is it time to throw in the towel and look for a better job?
First of all, don’t ignore your instincts. We all have an inner gut feeling and sometimes that’s the best thing to act on. Ask yourself how much you really dislike your job. If you only hate it sometimes, perhaps there is a way to solve the problem without having to leave. Can you address the issue with your line manager in an effort to improve your happiness at work? However, if you know that you’re deeply unhappy in your current post and have been for a while, there’s no question that you should look for alternative employment.
Here are 7 signs that definitely point towards the exit route.
1 – You dread going to work every day.
Do you wake up every morning and wish you didn’t have to go in, or that the workday was already over? Perhaps you’re tempted to call in sick simply because you can’t face another day at the office? While it’s normal to be worried or frustrated on occasion, if you really dread going to work every day and it’s causing you undue stress, it’s time to hand in your notice.
2 – You routinely complain about work to your friends or family.
Does every conversation you have somehow end up with you letting off steam about your job? Do you complain about your boss, your colleagues, the company ethos or the ways it is (badly) run? If all your job ever evokes is a negative reaction, without anything positive to make up for it, maybe now is a good time to review your options.
3 – There’s no opportunity for career progression.
If you’re stuck in a dead end job without any opportunity for growth or development in your chosen field, or you feel you’re overqualified, you’re wasting your time there. If you feel you’ve get everything you’re ever going to get out of you current job in terms of training, skills and experience, invest your energy into finding another employer: a company that is committed to supporting you in your career development.
4 – The company culture isn’t a good fit.
If you’re stuck in a traditional 9-5 job and have repeatedly tried but failed to negotiate more flexible working arrangements to fit around your lifestyle, personal commitments or family demands, this could be a deal breaker. Better to look for an employer who is more sympathetic to accommodate your preferences and give you the work/life balance you need.
5 – There’s a consistently negative atmosphere at work.
A negative vibe at work can zap morale and kill any passion for the job. If you have a toxic boss, or colleagues who never seem to stop moaning, and there’s no in-house awareness that this situation needs addressing urgently, it’s not surprising that there’s no motivation or enthusiasm to do a good job, and no respect for the company that’s employing you. You may even doubt your career choice. Time to leave.
6 – Your opinion is not wanted or heard.
If you feel that any thoughts, ideas or suggestions you choose to put forward at work are not valued, are routinely ignored or actively disrespected, this creates an unsupportive environment that can quickly take a toll on your self esteem. You should feel comfortable to voice your opinions at the office in the full expectation that your input is recognised and appreciated.
7 – Your mental and/or physical health is starting to suffer.
If you’re unhappy at work to the extent that it’s making you ill, get out as soon as you can. Are you working such long hours that there’s no time for relaxation, healthy eating, exercise or proper sleep? Do you drink excessively to get over a bad day at the office? Are you taking as many sick days as you can get away with? Are you being bullied at work? No job is worth sacrificing your wellbeing for, so start looking around.
If you feel you would benefit from talking to a qualified career coach or a trained psychotherapist to help you deal with your unhappy job situation, please give KlearMinds a call on 0333 772 0256. Our experienced team uses a unique approach focusing on empowering you to fully understand the blocks to your success and how to overcome them.
We all love a bit of retail therapy now and again, but when you get a buzz from the act of spending itself rather than from what you’ve actually bought, and particularly if you’re regularly spending more than you can afford, you might want to stop and think about what this might mean.
Put bluntly, emotional spending has nothing to do with shopping for things you need. Instead, you turn to spending money because of how you are feeling, such as in the following situations:
You’re feeling happy about something and you celebrate by going shopping.
You’re feeling unhappy with yourself and cheer yourself up by going shopping.
You’re feeling stressed about something and going shopping is a welcome distraction.
You’re feeling less than someone else and use shopping as a way to keep up with them.
A recent study showed that 19 million UK shoppers did so for emotional reasons. Emotional spending in 2017 led to a total of £26.5 billion in credit card debt – that’s a huge problem.
So, how do you know if you’re an emotional shopper? Well, ask yourself the following questions and see if one or several of them strike a chord:
Are you routinely trying to justify your purchases to yourself or to others?
Do you often feel worried or anxious after a shopping spree?
Do you make a habit out of hiding receipt, tags, shopping bags or any other shopping evidence?
Do you own lots of things you haven’t used or worn, or in fact forgotten that you had them?
If you’re affected by emotional spending, the trick is to understand what’s going on inside you, so that you can tackle the bad money behaviour. Here are 5 emotional motivations that can cause a disconnect between you and your financial decisions.
Once you’ve decided to put an end to your poor financial behaviour, there are some practical steps and techniques you can implement straight away to avoid emotional spending. These include:
Unsubscribe from mailing lists, so you are less likely to be seduced. The same goes for store cards – cut them up and close the account.
Never save your card details on shopping sites. The temptation to shop with just one click is far too great.
When shopping online, ask yourself whether you intended to buy the item when you first entered the website, how much you need it and how you would justify the purchase to someone else.
When you go shopping, set yourself a firm budget and take the money with you in cash, leaving cards at home.
Identify your triggers and devise alternative strategies to deal with the emotion that doesn’t involve spending.
As a last ditch resort, use the 24 hour rule: Wait for a full day and see whether you still really want to buy the item before making a purchase.
If you feel that it would be beneficial to speak to an experience and sympathetic counsellor about your emotional spending habits, please call the team at KlearMinds in confidence or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our expert psychoanalysts, life coaches and counsellors are powerfully equipped to give you the best opportunity for positive results and help you achieve fast, lasting change.
If you regularly have trouble falling asleep, keep waking up in the night or suffer from insomnia, there may be a hundred reasons why this is happening. Perhaps an underlying medical condition, such as chronic pain, an overactive thyroid or kidney infection is causing you to sleep badly. Sleep deprivation can also be a symptom of stress, anxiety, depression and a host of other issues.
Whatever the cause, if it’s interfering with your quality of life or stopping you from performing your daily tasks, something must be done. Obviously, your first port of call should be your GP who can investigate (and hopefully eliminate) any physical health problems that might contribute to your poor sleeping.
If you think the cause may be related to your mental health, counselling or psychotherapy may help. Here at KlearMinds, we have a highly skilled team who have worked with many different people, and therapies that are designed to help you achieve positive, lasting change.
Meanwhile, back at home, there are some practical steps you can take to create the best possible sleep environment for yourself.
It all starts with having the right mattress. If your body is not optimally supported, you won’t sleep well. Too soft, too hard – everyone has their own preferences, but do get professional advice on the type of mattress that’s best for your body shape and weight. Do you sleep on your front, back or side? Suffer from chronic pain? Try out different mattresses in the showroom and look out for manufacturers offering trial periods (typically around 100 days) with a money-back option if the mattress doesn’t pass the home test.
Tech free zone
Your bedroom should be a place for rest. By all means watch a film, answer emails or catch up with social media in the evening, but keep it out of the bedroom. In fact, it’s a good idea to ban all gadgets and gizmos – TVs, laptops, tablets, smartphones etc – from the bedroom altogether. Not only do they have the effect of stimulating the brain when you want it to switch into sleep mode, any lights and noises emanating from the devices can disrupt your precious sleep.
Relaxing bedtime routine
Make it a priority to view your bedroom as your personal sanctuary. If necessary, use the next weekend to declutter and decorate to create a calming, restful vibe. A nightly wind-down routine is a great way to prepare your body and mind for bedtime. There are many tried and tested techniques you can try including a warm bath, a hot cocoa or herbal tea (no caffeine or alcohol!), relaxing essential oils (lavender pillow, roll-on aromatherapy blends, yoga or breathing exercises, ½ hour’s journal writing or reading in bed.
Ideal room temperature
A cool bedroom (6-18°C) will aid your sleep, while a hot room (24°C+) will make you toss and turn. Make sure you have a choice of winter and summer bedding at your disposal and use it wisely. During the warmer month, airing the room before in the evening will maximise cool air circulation (but do close the window if there’s a draught). In the winter, have a hot water bottle or fluffy bedsocks ready for extra snugliness that will help you drift off.
The importance of darkness
Our body’s circadian rhythm responds to light and darkness – we are biologically programmed to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. Work with your body by keeping your sleep environment as dark as you can, eg by fitting blackout blinds, having a ‘no light at night’ house rule, wearing an eye mask and keeping phones and computers out of the bedroom – the blue light emanating from LED screens actually suppresses the release of melatonin, which our bodies need to relax and fall asleep.
Finally, make sure your sleep is not disturbed by noise, either from outside (traffic, dogs barking etc) or inside (night owl teenage kids, snoring partner, household appliances etc). Sometimes, earplugs are the only way to get some peace and quiet! That said, while loud, sudden noises will wake you up, soothing continuous sounds can be helpful to fall asleep to. Why not try one of the many ‘white noise’ apps available, or one that plays soothing nature sounds?
Ancient Greece may not be the first place you think of when considering the concept of resilience, which is basically the ability to bounce back from negative situations, but it is the home of Stoicism.
Stoicism was founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in early 3rd century BC and teaches us that we cannot control external events, only our mental and emotional responses to them. It explores how negative self-talk can intensify and prolong our suffering.
As the saying goes: ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’.
Psychology Today neatly sums up this approach: “By adjusting our thinking, and how we think about our thinking, we can change our emotional responses, the extent to which we suffer (or not), our level of tension and stress, and in turn, our experience of pain.”
But the Stoics are often misunderstood and equated with being unemotional and indifferent to physical suffering.
In fact, the Stoics did not recoil from feeling grief, anger or pain any other emotion. Instead they focused on cultivating a level of detachment and observing their own thoughts. They thought that human happiness could be found only in accepting the present moment, rather than by being controlled by the pursuit of pleasure or the desperation to avoid pain.
The stoics preached working collaboratively and treating other people fairly and with empathy. They stressed the benefits of logic, self control and inner calm, something most of us could do with a large dose of.
The philosophy contends that the way to be happy is to live a virtuous life and that you should judge somebody based on their actions much more than their words.
The Daily Stoic has this to say about Stoicism: “Stoicism doesn’t concern itself with complicated theories about the world, but with helping us overcome destructive emotions and act on what can be acted upon. It’s built for action, not endless debate.”
Modern self-help books talk about resilience and mindfulness colouring books fly off the shelves, but they are both really based on Stoicism.
One of the most famous Stoics was Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 160 to 180AD, and some of his quotes are inspirational reminders about living an ethical, self-disciplined and humble life and treating fellow humans with kindness and compassion.
Meditations, his only major work, contains some profoundly moving statements and exhortations to live the most virtuous lives we can.
Inspirational quotes from Marcus Aurelius
Many of his thoughts focus on the impossibility of mastering outside events and accepting them with grace instead.
“The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”
“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength.”
“How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
On acceptance and action: “Objective judgement, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance, now, at this very moment – of all external events. That’s all you need.”
On wisdom: “You’re subject to sorrow, fear, jealousy, anger and inconsistency. That’s the real reason you should admit that you are not wise.”
Back in the days of Seneca, Epictetus and Aurelius (all good Stoics) philosophy was about finding practical ways to live life, it was not as a theoretical construct removed from the reality of people’s lives, as it is sometimes today.
The benefits of mindfulness have been receiving much attention over recent years, with many companies introducing ‘mindfulness at work’ initiatives to benefit their staff, including giant corporations such as Google, Nike and Procter & Gamble. But how can this practice make any difference?
The concept of mindfulness is defined as the process of bringing one’s attention to what is occurring in the present moment, and without judgement. The aim is to be fully aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions but without getting caught up in them.
Rooted in Eastern philosophies, the practice is based on meditation and has the following benefits for the regular mindfulness student:
Reduces stress and mental health issues
Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness has the power to change the structure of our brains to allow us to respond to stress in a healthier way. It does this by lowering the production of cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’). Mindfulness can be particularly effective in lowering the negative effect of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, when used together with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication.
Improves focus and concentration
With regular practice, mindfulness can train your brain to stay fully focused on the present, meaning you are able to devote your full attention to what you are doing now, while minimising the impact of any distractions. Your mind will retain the information for longer, and the ability to approach each task calmly is likely to boost both your self-confidence and performance at work.
Teaches greater resilience
A mindful approach to the present can help us learn to appreciate the purely ‘experiential self’ rather than the learned narrative that we tell ourselves about who we think we are/should be. This can be helpful in the face of change and/or adversity brought about by, say, an unexpected life event, sudden job loss or major career change.
Helps to develop better relationships
Strong self-awareness, the ability to empathise and desire to behave with altruistic intent are important cornerstones for developing meaningful relationships. Mindfulness helps us to respond more authentically to people, which in turn builds trust and understanding – key ingredients for resilient workplace connections and collaborations.
Encourages creative thinking
Practising mindfulness on a regular basis stimulates divergent thinking, which can be hugely beneficial for creative brainstorming and ideation sessions, helping to produce innovative ideas and solutions for all kinds of business problems.
How to get started in your mindfulness practice
In order to gain the most benefit from mindfulness, regular practice is essential. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither should you underestimate the time it takes to ‘learn’ to become mindful. Here are 5 steps you can take to practise being in the here and now.
1 – Meditate daily
Find somewhere quiet and comfortable where you can sit in an upright but relaxed position. Pay attention to your breathing and listen to the sound of your breath as you feel your chest rise and fall. Do this for at least 1 minute and don’t worry if you get distracted – you will learn to notice your thoughts and let them pass, like clouds in the sky, bringing your attention back to your breath. If you feel that you need guidance, there are plenty of meditation apps and guided meditations you could try.
2 – Observe the world around you
With digital technology and the demands of a hectic 24/7 world all around us, it can be hard to get off the treadmill and just be. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the here and now, on what is right in front of you right now, cutting through the din. Can you hear birdsong outside? Feel the sunshine on your skin? See children playing in the street? Smell the rain? Make a point of paying attention to the world in 3D. Whether on the daily commute, at the office or at home, really observe and sense the environment that is all around.
3 – Make it a habit to slow down
Rather than rushing through the day to try and get as much done as possible, slow down! Concentrate on completing one task at a time calmly and to the best of your abilities. Multitasking can be overrated – sometimes the pace and sheer volume of demands on our time can mean that quality of our work suffers. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and overhurried, refocus and gently direct your attention to the task at hand until it’s done to your satisfaction.
4 – Appreciate routine tasks
Rather than treating routine tasks as pesky chores that get in the way of ‘real work’, reframe the way you think about these jobs. Whether it’s filling in your timesheet, filing paperwork or restocking the drinks machine, release your inner resistance to the task and simply pay attention to the detail of the activity in front of you. Feel the warm water on your hands, or the paper between your fingers while you carry out this routine task without judgement, worry or undue pressure.
5 – Accept your feelings
An important part of being mindful is to not judge your thoughts and feelings as being either right or wrong – whatever it is, they’re just thoughts or feelings that will pass. On their own, the don’t define you, and they only have the power over you that you give them. Rather than letting a particular thought or feeling negatively affect your self-esteem, you can choose to let it pass.
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