Mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness to the present moment, or what is actually happening. It can be easier said than done – most of us spend a lot of our time either processing what has happened in the past, or projecting and planning the future. Here are some tips if you’re curious about mindfulness: where to start, how to come back to being mindful if you find yourself caught up in old patterns, and why it can be such a powerful practice.
Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years and forms an important part of the Buddhist tradition, where it takes the form of meditation. Other common ways to experience mindfulness include yoga, mindful eating, classes, and online courses and apps. Since the 1970s, it’s been increasingly used within Western medicine as a way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
In the UK, mindfulness combined with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is currently recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of relapse in recurrent depression.
Many people have reported that mindfulness has helped reduce stress and anxiety and enabled them to cope better with the demands of their busy lives.
In the words of our Head Coach Annie Stoker, mindfulness is
“A tool to become totally aware in the present moment, feel radically alive and completely open to your own experience. Not only can life become more vivid, enjoyable and interesting, but mindfulness also brings the opportunity for profound healing of unhelpful mental and emotional patterns.”
Mindfulness: Where to start?
If you’re curious about mindfulness, and how it could have an impact on your life, it’s important to remember that mindfulness is most effective when it’s used as a practice: something you do regularly, ideally daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.
If you’re someone who tends to dive into new ideas you might be tempted to sign up for a week-long retreat, or commit to an hour of mindfulness every morning at dawn. Those things can be great, but can be hard to keep up over the long term, which is how you’ll receive the best benefit.
Here are three ways to start introducing mindfulness into your life.
1. Start with a plan
If mindfulness is a practice you’ve been thinking about trying, start by planning how you’re going to incorporate it into your day.
Like exercise, mindfulness isn’t something that will create lasting change overnight, so think about how you could realistically include it in your life.
Are there particular times when you know you’ll be able to create the space to change into a different mindset?
Here are some ideas for how to bring mindfulness into your day:
- Get up slightly earlier each day and practice mindfulness in the quiet of the morning
- If you make a regular journey, like a commute or school pickup, commit to spending some time being mindful at the beginning or end
- Practice mindful eating for a meal, snack or cup of tea each day
- Give yourself a few moments of mindfulness before you go to bed
- Instead of listening to music or podcasts, try incorporating mindfulness into your regular exercise routine: walking, running or yoga
2. Be consistent, not perfect
A lot of us have the impression that the “perfect” way to be mindful involves smiling peacefully to yourself as you connect to your inner sense of zen.
Well, sometimes that can be the case – but mindfulness is an invitation to connect to the present moment and really become aware of what you’re experiencing, both in your body and your mind. Which, unless you’re some kind of saint, won’t always be calm and serene! In fact, you might be experiencing anxiety, sadness, anger or frustration.
The point isn’t to “fix” what you’re feeling, but to become aware of it.
So don’t be tempted to skip a session if you’re not in the ‘right’ frame of mind. The purpose of the practice is to become aware of how you are in that moment.
If you’re feeling stressed or worried, give yourself the space to pay attention to exactly how that’s showing up (hunched shoulders? churning tummy?) for the time you’ve allocated to yourself.
It’s the commitment to pausing and paying attention at moments of tension that can be the most powerful way to change our patterns.
3. Notice what changes
When you’ve started a new activity, there are two benefits to noticing how it’s impacting you: it can motivate you to continue, and it can also show you where you might want to change your approach.
If you don’t do it already, journalling first thing in the morning (“morning pages” as taught by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way) is a fantastic tool for tracking your emotions and recording how you’re doing when you make changes in your life.
Notice if after a few weeks or months mindfulness has an impact on how you’re responding to challenges or upsets, or your approach to what’s going on in your life.
Ask yourself if practicing mindfulness has felt challenging at all, and whether it’s time to make any changes.
- Could you change the time you’re practicing? Perhaps you’re too tired at night and it would work better for you to get up a bit earlier so you can be mindful before work
- Could you set up prompts to help you be more consistent? An alarm on your phone, or an app that might support you if you find yourself forgetting or skipping sessions?
- Could you find support or training? A local class, coach or online group to answer questions and help overcome the feeling of ‘not doing it right’?
When you just don’t have time
If you’re thinking “I’d love to make some time to be mindful – but I barely have five minutes to myself these days” then it might be time to create some time to nourish yourself before things get too much.
BeFruitful is our signature time management program designed by women, for women – and we promise it will help you find an extra 5 hours in your week, at least. Read the full details and book your place on this life-changing training by clicking here.
Not every approach works for every woman. But unless you give it a try, you won’t know if this is a technique that might make all the difference. With the current levels of stress, anxiety and burnout in women it’s vital that we each find the ways that work best for us to maintain our wellbeing and take care of our physical and mental health.
Have you tried mindfulness? How did you get started, and do you have any tips to share with anyone who’s curious about bringing it into their lives? Let us know in the comments below.
Our intention is simple. To support professional women to handle the day-to-day so they can unleash the bigger impact they feel called to make in the world.
We believe real leadership is less about skill, and more about having a well of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual strength to draw on. Every week we support thousands of grassroots leaders globally with our free articles, videos and online trainings with powerful tools and methodologies created BY women FOR women.
Become One of many™ women creating strong, meaningful connections in our community.