A favourite with celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Katy Perry, mindfulness has taken the world by storm in recent years. A form of meditation, it’s about focusing the mind on what’s happening in the here and now- for as little as five minutes a day. It sounds like an easy enough task, but our fast-paced modern lives can make it difficult to switch off, even for a few seconds. Mornings are spent scrolling through emails as you gulp down your cereal, while evenings involve endless paperwork and trying to convince the kids to eat their broccoli. Leaving less time to focus on ourselves, our interests and our families, it’s no surprise that burn-out syndrome is causing more stress and anxiety than ever before. But could mindfulness be the ticket to a more peaceful life? Hailed by experts as a great way to boost your mental health, small changes can lead to big results. Get into a positive new mindset for 2018 with our simple guide to mindfulness.
1. How to meditate
Once you get the hang of it, you can meditate anywhere, but it’s best to start in a quiet room with no distractions. Sit in a comfortable spot on the floor and close your eyes, taking in the sounds and smells around you. Thoughts will pop into your head, but as they do try to push them away and bring your concentration back to your breathing. Think about the way your chest moves up and down, the sound of your breath and any sensations you feel in your body.
2. Be inspired by day-to-day life
Improving your focus takes time, so it’s a good idea to practice regularly. Next time you’re eating a sandwich, don’t just wolf it down while you plan for your next meeting. Instead take five minutes out to concentrate on your lunch, thinking about the flavours and the way the textures feel in your mouth. You can do this with almost any day-to-day activity, like brushing your teeth or washing your hair in the shower. The object is to bring your mind’s focus back to what’s happening in that very moment (rather than the broken tumble dryer or kids’ school reports).
3. Go easy on yourself
The mind is a complex thing and it’s difficult to switch off. Don’t beat yourself up if you find your concentration starting to drift. If you’re struggling to keep focused on your meditation, try breaking it down into smaller chunks of one to two minutes. With practice you’ll find your concentration improves and you’re better able to control those pesky, stressful thoughts that pop into your head.
4. Take a break from screens
Whether it’s catching up on Instagram likes or nestling under a duvet for a Netflix marathon, we’re so attached to our screens sometimes we forget about reality. Technology is showing no signs of abating, so it’s time we took matters into our own hands and kicked our addiction. Sleep experts recommend switching off all phones, tablets and televisions at least an hour before bed, to give the brain chance to wind down after a busy day. A better night’s sleep leads to improved concentration and a clearer mind the next day.
5. Listen to ‘focus’ music and try guided meditation
Mindfulness practice can seem intimidating when you start, so it can help to ease yourself in with some music or a guided meditation. If you’re a yoga or pilates fan, try selecting some focus music during your practice- special musical alpha waves that can aid your concentration and help to calm stress. Alternatively try settling down with a guided meditation recording, which you can order online or find on YouTube. The music and gentle instructions will help bring your wandering mind back to your breathing and surroundings.
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