Posted at 13:25:05 by Jacky Leonard
“A new destiny starts with one thought – a powerful thought” www.just-a-minute.org
With the daffodils in bloom and Spring emerging from the depths of an extremely wet Winter, I decided this month I would be more mindful, as opposed to mind full and to keep it simple, I stuck with the rule of 3 and chose a trio of areas on which to direct my focus: Breathing, Eating and Walking.
It’s estimated you have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day...and maybe not all of them are as positive as you’d like. That’s an awful lot of thinking, so is there any wonder you find yourself mentally drained at the end of each day. Could mindfulness help…and what is it anyway?
It can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, being fully aware of what’s happening outside and inside your body, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is now commonly used as a therapeutic technique to manage stress and promote wellbeing.
I started with breathing, after all it’s the first thing all mammals are, sometimes forcibly, encouraged to do when you’re born. It’s an essential, unconscious, automatic act, so why focus on it? Well, it seems you may not be doing it as well as you could and this can have a negative impact on your posture, stress levels and efficiency of your bodies systems. Breathing practices feature highly in activities such as meditation, martial arts and yoga because of it’s numerous benefits including helping to release toxins; elevating your mood and reducing excessive stress.
There are many breathing exercises, from those that give you a quick oxygen rush, to the slower, measured and more calming form.
Here’s one I practice at night to help me switch off, or during the day when I need to focus and get some clarity.
1. Inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, then fill your chest to a count of 5
2. Hold and Count to 3
3. Exhale fully from slightly parted mouth and feel all your cells releasing waste and emptying all old energy to a count of 5.
This should be done slowly, deeply and rhythmically, breathing in through the nose for 3-4 seconds and out for 3-4 seconds.
What about eating? Another essential activity that is often done habitually, without too much conscious thought. I come from a family that eats like something is about to swoop down and take the meal away if it’s not consumed in haste. Not a good thing, for your digestion, weight management, or enjoyment. Therefore, it’s easy for me to default to the ‘eat and run’ approach to meals. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from the nutritionists, psychologists and physiologists I’ve worked with who specialise in adopting healthier eating habits. Practicing these activities have helped me be more mindful in terms of the quality and quantity of the food I eat and the speed in which it’s consumed.
- Eating in the company of friends and family
- Sitting at the table, rather than eating from a tray on your lap in front of the visual Valium (TV)
- Using a smaller plate
- Eating regular meals, so you’re not over hungry when you eat
- Using fresh, wholesome, healthy ingredients, rather than packaged, processed food
- Taking your time, by putting down your fork after each mouthful
- Savouring each mouthful, enjoying the smell, texture and taste
Employing these strategies have made eating a more pleasurable experience for me, rather than a mindless activity.
Finally, to walking. A wonderful weight bearing activity that has a range of benefits including refreshing your mind, improving your physical health and lifting your spirits.
I love walking, through the countryside, up mountains and along coastal paths. I find it good for my soul, as well as my health. It offers me time to remember what’s really important and re-energises me physically and mentally. I’m fortunate enough to have walked in some wonderful places such as Peru, Iceland and Kenya as well as the UK’s National Parks and I now have the beautiful Cotswold countryside on my doorstep. I quite enjoy the solitude of a walk alone, or with a dog. However, if you prefer company, there are a number of walking groups and organisations countrywide that provide a convivial social environment. Here are 3 links that may help you find one near you.
10,000 steps a day is the recommendation, however The British Heart Foundation, recommends starting with just 10 minutes a day. Get up, get out and enjoy the fresh air and freedom of a walk. I use a Fitbit to record mine, (alternative monitoring devices are available) and have set some other personal targets, which ‘Go Green’ when achieved. This allows me to measure my progress and helps keep me motivated.
Being more mindful during my walks this month have added a new dimension and enhanced my experience. Try this: When you’re out walking, firstly focus on your breathing, the origin, the depth and pace. Then notice how the ground feels underfoot, how each step impacts on the body, which muscles are working. Change your focus to the environment around you and without judgement, absorb yourself in the sights, the sounds, the aromas, spending a little time to be completely mindful of each in turn. You’ll might find you notice things you’ve missed before and start experiencing your ramble from a very different perspective.
Next month is Adventurous April. I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and try something you’ve not done before. Enjoy!