Our mental health has been under stress with the unfolding crisis of Covid-19. It’s been difficult to relax and focus on calming thoughts. I’ve found practicing meditation has helped me in the past and now at this time as we try to readjust to our future.
Why practice mindfulness?
Clinical researchers have carried out a number of tests which have shown that mindfulness can improve your overall health and wellbeing in these ways:
- lower stress levels
- lower depression
- improve the quality of sleep
- reduce anxiety
- encourage positive thinking
- alter the way the mind reacts to difficult situations
- improve decision making
How can mindfulness be described?
In a nutshell, it’s focusing our attention purely on the present moment. Doing this without letting the mind drift back to past memories or thinking about future events. Mindfulness is embracing the present with acceptance, without judgment.
The monkey mind🐒
There are so many distractions for us to focus our mind on. To illustrate the monkey mind, try this exercise for a couple of minutes.
Focus your mind on your breathing. Think about where you can feel movement in your chest from your breathing. Concentrate on this area, for a few minutes. You will notice your thoughts stray, thinking about numerous things other than the breath.
These thoughts are from past or future experiences. The mind is rarely focused on the present. It jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey playing. This practice is called the monkey mind.
How do I start to practice mindfulness?
Start by focusing on your senses when you carry out your everyday routine. By thinking about the feel, touch, smell and the sound of everything you are experiencing.
If you carry out a task such as washing the dishes, think about the heat of the water, the texture and feel of the plates, the scent of washing up liquid and the sound of water filling up the bowl.
“If you have a regular daily routine build some time into it every day to practice mindfulness.”
You could try changing your daily activities. For example if you regularly go for a walk and always walk the same way; try changing the route to one your not as familiar with. Or try a completely new walk.
By changing your routine to something different or new it will get your mind to focus on a familiar task in a different or new way.
If you find while you are concentrating on tasks thoughts interrupt you. Just observe them, try not to be side tracked by them.
Introduce a label for each thought that arises; ‘I’m nervous about a exam result’, label it ‘thought’, or a feeling ‘I feel worried’ label it ‘emotion’; and go back to the task you are carrying out.
This practice will help train the mind to not follow a thought and get sidetracked by it. Just observe thoughts without judgment, acknowledging them, and labelling them. Going back to the task.
Taking mindfulness a step further incorporating it into daily meditation practice can encourage the mind to work in a regular pattern.
Mindfulness meditation works by silently spending a few minutes every day thinking about one aspect of the body, such as breathing awareness and acknowledging thoughts, when they arise and bringing back attention to the breathing.
Have a look at my page on Meditation for more information about suggestions for meditation practice.