There is no doubt that we are living at a busy time. We dash from work to housework to activities to social gatherings with barely time to breathe.
We have no choice.
Life is busy.
Working hours are no longer just 9-5, Monday-Friday, as they were when our parents were working. Now we work longer days, more days and between that and juggling family and trying to get enough steps on our Fitbit is killing us.
Literally killing us.
When we live in our heads and don’t give ourselves time to stop and just be we are causing so much stress to our bodies and our brains.
What can we do about it?
Mindfulness. (I know, isn’t it the solution to everything?)
By being more mindful as we go about our busy lives we allow our brains to rest, our physiological stress reactions to calm, and we become happier and more present.
I know what you are going to say.
“But Kate, you have just agreed that we are all busy. How on earth am I supposed to find time to be mindful too”
Well, it’s easy. You’re not!
The beauty of mindfulness is that you don’t have to do anything more than you are already doing. You just have to do it a little differently.
Instead of thinking about the presentation you have at work tomorrow while you are doing the washing up, you think about the washing up. How does the water feel on your skin? Are your fingers going pruny yet? Aren’t our plates pretty? Oh look there’s a robin in the garden, how lovely. I can hear the birds singing.
Instead of dashing about doing the weeding and cutting the grass, thinking about whether the kids have tidied their rooms yet, you think about the weeding and cutting the grass. How does the grass smell? Is pushing the lawnmower making any of your muscles feel sore? How does the grass feel under your feet? Can you hear the neighbours dog barking? The soil is lovely and soft today. Look how beautiful those flowers are looking.
Do one job at a time and put all your energy and attention into that job. I have compiled a little list of jobs I do mindfully, maybe you can too:
- making a hot drink
- brushing my teeth
- washing the car
What would your list look like? Grab a pen and write it now.
So now you have your list all you have to do is choose one thing and start doing that one thing mindfully. Try to choose something you do regularly, preferably every day. Maybe making a hot drink. Maybe washing up, brushing your teeth. Whatever it is, commit to doing that mindfully for a week, then add another habit and keep going until you don’t even notice all the activities you are doing mindfully.
“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.”
Becoming more mindful is a process. It isn’t something you just wake up one morning and decide. Like anything it takes time.
Apparently we have to do something for 21 days for it to become a habit. Of course that is a what research has decided, it may only take you 5 days, or it may take 45 days. I know that if I make something part of my morning routine I am much more likely to keep it up. Mornings are fairly consistent in my life at the moment so that is the easiest time to add in new habits. But whatever you decide, if you do it every day for 21 days you will keep doing it forever.
Whatever you choose, really work hard at being as present as you can. Really focus on what you are doing and all the senses associated with it. As you make your morning coffee watch the steam curl, smell the coffee, see the milk disperse in the mug, feel the heat as it approaches your lips. Really savour it.
Research shows that when we eat and drink more mindfully we lose weight because we notice when we are full and we don’t just keep mindlessly putting food in our mouths. The benefits to living more mindfully are pretty extensive but for me the most important benefit is the feeling of calm and the appreciation it gives me of the amazing things I am fortunate enough to have in my life. Whether it is really being present when my son gives me a hug in the morning, or being present as I scrub the tiles in the bathroom, I am grateful for all the blessings in my life.
Feeling calm and feeling thankful, are two of the most amazing feelings in the world.
If the traffic is busy, can I change it by getting frustrated and angry? Will I get there any quicker if I huff and puff and sigh?
No of course I won’t. If I stay calm and arrive a little late but safe and grateful that I wasn’t involved in the incident that caused the hold up, that is a blessing. Being present and reminding yourself that there is no need to react the way society has taught you that you ought to, leads to a happier and more contented life. When this situation arises, take a few deep breaths and be grateful you are safe.
If all you do is change how you react to these minor frustrations you will see such a change in your life.
How often does one thing happen early in the day which puts you in a bad mood for the rest of the day? Do you really think that everything is against you today? Is today really any better or worse than any other day? Of course not, but you have already told your brain to focus on the negatives because it is going to be “one of those days” because you spilt the milk when you made your morning coffee, or you couldn’t find your keys and left the house 5 minutes late. Focus on the positives, take a deep breath and reset. You might surprise yourself with the results.
The more you focus on being present, the more you will notice your reactions shifting away from knee jerk responses of anger and frustration and towards compassion and calm. You are training your brain to respond to what is really happening, not what you perceive to be happening.
If you feel that you would benefit from some guidance as you take your first few mindful steps why not sign up for my 8 week daily email course, “and breathe…”. It has helped so many people to be more mindful in only a few minutes a day and it teaches you to build your practice gradually.